LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester City thumped Liverpool 4-1 even without goal machine Erling Haaland in their ranks but Arsenal took another step towards a first Premier League title in nearly 20 years as they matched the champions with a 4-1 win over Leeds United on Saturday.
While the title race gathered pace on the resumption of the top flight after the international break, the relegation battle becomes more intriguing by the week with Leicester City the latest side to fall into the bottom three.
In the day's late kickoff Chelsea dropped into the bottom half of the table after losing 2-0 at home to Aston Villa.
With Haaland, who has scored 42 goals in 37 matches in all competitions for City, sidelined with a groin injury, his side looked in big trouble when Mohamed Salah gave Liverpool an early lead at The Etihad Stadium.
But Pep Guardiola's side responded in emphatic fashion with Julian Alvarez levelling before halftime.
Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Jack Grealish were all on target in the second half as City dismantled Juergen Klopp's side whose hopes of a top-four finish suffered another blow as they ended the day in eighth place.
It meant City had cut Arsenal's lead to five points before the Gunners kicked off but any hopes they had of ending the weekend closer to the Londoners were dashed as their former forward Gabriel Jesus got back on the scoresheet.
Jesus, given his first league start since returning from a knee injury last month, fired in a first-half penalty against Leeds for his first goal for six months.
Ben White made it 2-0 just after halftime and Jesus then grabbed his second of the day from a Leandro Trossard assist.
Rasmus Kristensen's deflected shot gave Leeds a 76th-minute lifeline but Granit Xhaka's header secured another three points in Arsenal's quest for a first title since 2004.
Arsenal's seventh successive league win moved them to 72 points from 29 games with City, who still have to play the London club at home, on 64 having played one game less.
"What we can control is what we can do. After the international break there was a few tricky situations to manage but everybody wanted to be involved," Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told reporters.
Roy Hodgson's latest return from retirement sparked some life into Crystal Palace as they claimed their first win in 2023 by beating Leicester 2-1 at Selhurst Park.
Jean-Philippe Mateta's late goal sparked jubilation amongst the home fans as Palace moved into 12th place with 30 points, five points ahead of third-from-bottom Leicester.
The 75-year-old Hodgson has returned to take charge after a 12-match winless run cost Patrick Vieira his job.
Pressure is intensifying on Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers as his side lost for the fifth time in six league games.
"We've been in the position before and dealt with that adverse moment and got ourselves out of it," Rodgers said.
"We have 10 games to go. The next game's a massive game."
Bournemouth climbed out of the bottom three as Marcus Tavernier and Dominic Solanke were both on target in a 2-1 victory over Fulham who had led through Andreas Pereira.
Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers drew 1-1 at the City Ground as both clubs stayed far too close to the relegation zone for comfort.
Brennan Johnson gave Forest the lead but substitute Daniel Podence equalised late on for the visitors who remain in 13th place, one spot and one point above Forest.
Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford, both with their eyes on qualifying for Europe, slugged out a 3-3 draw.
The result took both teams above Liverpool with Brighton in sixth place and Brentford in seventh.
Chelsea appeared to have turned a corner under Graham Potter with back-to-back wins in the Premier League last month but their goalscoring woes returned as they went down to Villa.
Ollie Watkins and captain John McGinn scored for Villa as they moved above Chelsea into ninth place.
"We have to accept it (the result) and do better," Potter told Sky Sports. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves. We have a fantastic game on Tuesday (against Liverpool) to put it right."
Fifth-placed Newcastle United host third-placed Manchester United on Sunday and West Ham United host Southampton in a clash of the bottom two clubs.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)