(Reuters) - Chelsea boosted their hopes of a top-four finish with a 2-1 win over London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Saturday while at the bottom Aston Villa and Bournemouth drifted deeper into trouble with damaging defeats.
Manchester City cut Liverpool's lead to 19 points as they won 1-0 at Leicester City in the battle for runners-up spot.
Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso returned to the Chelsea starting lineup and responded with a goal each in the derby against Spurs at Stamford Bridge.
It was only Chelsea's sixth win in 14 home Premier League games this season but it was a timely one as they remain fourth, the last Champions league qualification spot, with 44 points from 27 games, four more than Jose Mourinho's Spurs.
Erik Lamela's shot deflected in off Antonio Rudiger to give Spurs some hope near the end but Chelsea were deserved winners.
VAR was the big talking point once again, however, as Tottenham's Giovani Lo Celso was spared a red card for a dreadful tackle on Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta.
While referee Michael Oliver did not punish Lo Celso, video replays confirmed the severity of his 'stamp' on Azpilicueta's shin, but surprisingly a VAR check found him not guilty.
According to BT Sport, who were showing the game live, VAR official David Coote admitted he had made a mistake in not recommending a red card for the midfielder.
"Saying afterwards that they made a mistake is not good enough because they had a couple of minutes to try to get it right," said Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, who completed a league double over his old Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.
"They probably needed one viewing of that one to get it right. It's another huge question mark on VAR."
Opportunist goals from Shane Long and Stuart Armstrong condemned Villa to a 2-0 defeat at mid-table Southampton.
Villa stay 17th on 25 points, one point above the relegation zone and a point behind Eddie Howe's Bournemouth, who fell to a 3-0 loss at Burnley where VAR was also in the dock.
Burnley grabbed the lead in the 53rd minute with Czech striker Vydra claiming his second goal in as many games but the match turned on a remarkable minute of VAR-reviewed action on the hour mark.
Burnley appealed in vain for a penalty, arguing that Adam Smith had handled a Dwight McNeil cross -- the resulting counter-attack ended with Callum Wilson feeding Harry Wilson who clipped the ball past goalkeeper Nick Pope.
But VAR ruled that Smith had indeed handled -- cancelling out the Bournemouth goal and awarding Burnley a penalty which Jay Rodriguez converted to make it 2-0 after 61 minutes when moments earlier the score had stood at 1-1.
McNeil rounded off the win with a superb solo goal in the 87th to send the Clarets up to eighth.
To rub salt into Bournemouth's wounds they had a goal by Josh King ruled out for handball when the score was 0-0.
"It's so difficult for the players, there was almost a three goal swing against us," Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said.
"Once the second VAR decision happened we fell apart a bit mentally."
Manchester City were rightly awarded a penalty after a VAR check at Leicester later, only for Sergio Aguero's spot kick to be saved by Kasper Schmeichel -- City's fourth successive missed penalty in the Premier League.
But Gabriel Jesus, on as a substitute, spared Aguero's blushes when he fired home a late winner that lifted City seven points above Leicester and 19 behind leaders Liverpool.
Sixth-placed Sheffield United have begun to dream of a possible Champions League place but were frustrated as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by lowly Brighton & Hove Albion.
A poacher's goal from Brighton striker Neal Maupay cancelled out a peach of a strike from Enda Stevens.
Crystal Palace broke a three-match losing streak in the league as full back Patrick van Aanholt's thunderbolt free-kick gave Roy Hodgson's side a 1-0 home win over Newcastle United.
(Reporting by Simon Evans and Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris and Clare Fallon)
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