David Silva sparkled for Manchester City with two goals in a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace that wiped out Chelsea's lead at the top of the table and added festive spice to the Premier League title race on Saturday.
Manchester United's pursuit of the table-toppers stalled with a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa, their first dropped points in seven games, as local rivals City came through an encounter with Palace that threatened to turn into a frustrating occasion.
Silva eased an increasingly tense atmosphere at the Etihad Stadium when he broke the deadlock shortly after halftime and then put an efficient victory to bed with his second goal soon after. Yaya Toure emphatically smashed home a late third.
The victory for City, who are having to cope without all their main strikers through injury, moved them level on 39 points with Chelsea, who visit Stoke City on Monday, and ignited a title battlea that had looked to be a one-horse parade.
Champions City trailed Chelsea by eight points in November, but have cranked into gear heading into the busy festive period, taking 22 points from a possible 24 in their last eight games.
United are seven points adrift and one in front of a West Ham United side who will occupy a coveted top four spot at Christmas after a 2-0 home win over bottom club Leicester City.
Southampton's woes were forgotten as they beat Everton 3-0 after four straight league defeats, while Tottenham Hotspur kept up their pursuit of a top-four spot with a 2-1 home win against Burnley to move above Arsenal, who visit Liverpool on Sunday.
Queens Park Rangers striker Charlie Austin scored a superb hat-trick as they fought back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at home to West Bromwich Albion, but seecond-bottom Hull City's troubles continued with a 1-0 home defeat by Swansea City.
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