Premier League round-up

Arsenal held; Chelsea triumph; Fulham, Bolton and Birmingham suffer

Chelsea now look to be Manchester United's only realistic challengers in the Premier League title race after Arsenal faltered again.

And the convoluted relegation picture is becoming much clearer after further demoralising defeats for Fulham, Bolton and Birmingham.

The Gunners were held to a 1-1 home draw by Liverpool in part two of their trilogy of games against the Anfield outfit.

Both Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez rested key players with their focus clearly on Tuesday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg at Anfield.

Avram Grant also rang the changes and his Blues side responded to their midweek defeat by Fenerbahce with an important 2-0 victory away to Manchester City.

Newcastle claimed their third successive victory to banish any lingering relegation fears, but Reading still have work to do after going down 3-0 at St James' Park.

Sunderland look on course to secure their Premier League status for another season after claiming only their second away win of the campaign against struggling Fulham.

Bolton suffered their ninth defeat in their last 12 games and remain four points from safety after a 4-0 thrashing at Aston Villa.

Steve Bruce enjoyed a productive reunion with his former club with Wigan claiming a vital 2-0 victory against the 10-man Blues to boost their survival hopes.

And Blackburn were forced to come from behind against Carling Cup winners Tottenham, but a point does little for the slender Uefa Cup hopes of Mark Hughes' side.

Peter Crouch made the most of a rare start for Liverpool to fire them in front against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium in the 42nd minute, flicking on Jose Reina's goal-kick before scuffing home Yossi Benayoun's cross.

And although the Gunners responded with Nicklas Bendtner heading home Cesc Fabregas' free-kick nine minutes into the second period, two more dropped points surely ends any lingering hopes Wenger has of overhauling Manchester United.

The title race now looks to be between the Red Devils and Chelsea with the Stamford Bridge side taking three points from fading Manchester City.

The visitors made the perfect start as Nicolas Anelka exchanged passes with Michael Essien and Richard Dunne could only knock the French striker's eventual cross beyond Joe Hart with the Ghana international lurking in attendance.

And Essien was again involved in the second, playing a delightful one-two with Salomon Kalou, allowing the striker to round Hart and slot home in the 53rd minute.

The young City goalkeeper then produced a stunning double save to tip Anelka's header onto the bar before clawing the rebound to safety.

Fulham look destined to be joining Derby in the Championship next season after goals from Danny Collins, Michael Chopra and Kenwyne Jones secured a third successive victory for Sunderland.

The Cottagers were the victims of their own downfall with weak defending for each of Sunderland's goals as Collins headed home the first before the break and then Chopra was allowed far too much time and space to lift Jones' flick-on over the advancing Antti Niemi in the 54th minute.

David Healy curled home a stunning goal to give Fulham hope, but the home defence went to sleep again immediately afterwards as Dean Whitehead found Jones who had all the time in the world to find the bottom corner.

Bolton's 4-0 thrashing at Aston Villa has done little for their goal difference and will have damaged their shattered morale even more.

Again their defending left much to be desired as Ashley Young skipped away from a weak challenge on the left flank and had time to pick out Gareth Barry in the six-yard box to bundle home a ninth-minute opener.

Gabriel Agbonlahor then made it 2-0 with an expert close-range finish from Barry's cross in the 56th minute, with the Villa midfielder's deflected strike from outside the area making it 3-0 soon after.

Bolton's defence then went AWOL to give Marlon Harewood a free header to glance home Barry's free-kick five minutes from the end of a miserable afternoon for Gary Megson's men.

Birmingham's meeting with former boss Bruce was not a happy one as Wigan inflicted a 2-0 defeat over the 10-man visitors to climb eight points clear of the relegation places.

Ryan Taylor drilled home the opener in the 15th minute after Antonio Valencia's incisive run and cross, before Damien Johnson saw a deserved red card for a two-footed lunge on Kevin Kilbane.

Taylor then made it 2-0 after the break, with Valencia involved again as his low cross was turned back into the box, Emile Heskey saw his shot blocked and then the full-back scored at the second attempt.

Kevin Keegan's three-pronged Newcastle attack produced the goods to sink Reading with Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Mark Viduka all on target.

Martins broke the deadlock with a cool finish after Liam Rosenior's unfortunate slip allowed the Nigerian striker a clear run at goal in the 18th minute.

Owen made it 2-0 before the break with a thumping finish from Habib Beye's deft chip over the Royals defence, before Viduka put the result beyond doubt after another excellent pass from Beye.

Honours ended even between Blackburn and Tottenham at Ewood Park with Morten Gamst Pedersen cancelling out Dimitar Berbatov's bundled opener.

The Bulgarian striker put Spurs in front from close range in the seventh minute from Jermaine Jenas' cross with the home side appealing in vain for offside, but Gamst Pedersen levelled on the half-hour when David Bentley got in behind Pascal Chimbonda to put the chance on a plate.