Premier League round-up

Ballack double for Chelsea, while Fulham and Black Cats leave it late

Chelsea reignited the title race courtesy of a thrilling late victory over Manchester United, while at the wrong end of the table it was an afternoon of intrigue, surprise and no little drama.

Michael Ballack's double that sandwiched a Wayne Rooney equaliser means it is now all-square at the Premier League summit, with United clinging onto top spot thanks to a superior goal difference with two games left to play.

Fulham looked as though they had all but conceded their top-flight status when they fell two goals down at Manchester City, but a second-half fight-back saw them return south with a magnificent 3-2 victory.

Leave-it-late specialists Sunderland did it again to steal a 3-2 victory from a tumultuous North East derby with Middlesbrough, which saw Daryl Murphy steal bragging rights with a near-post header in stoppage-time.

Birmingham will rue the game that got away as they threw away a two-goal lead at St Andrews, to let Liverpool off the hook for a below-par display, as Rafa Benitez's men returned to Merseyside with a 2-2 draw.

Bolton did their hopes of avoiding the drop no harm with a credible 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane, while in the one goalless game of the afternoon, Wigan and Reading could not be separated in a war of attrition at The JJB.

West Ham and Newcastle played out a four-goal thriller at Upton Park that saw Kevin Keegan's side come from two down to take an away day point.

All eyes were transfixed on the day's early kick-off and the game did not disappoint as Chelsea and Manchester United served up a magnificent clash in West London.

The home side set off like a steam train as they attempted to derail United's title tilt but they struggled to find a breakthrough, as Joe Cole's snapshot cannoned off the post.

Earlier in the first half Nemanja Vidic had to be replaced after suffering a bloody mouth and heavy head after accidentally colliding with Didier Drogba's knee.

The impressive Ballack opened the scoring just before the break when he ghosted in unmarked to plant Drogba's cross beyond Edwin van der Sar.

United improved after the interval and equalised on 56 minutes when Rooney capitalised on a rare Ricardo Carvalho error to fire past Petr Cech.

With United supporters jubilant Ballack silenced the travelling faithful for a second time when with four minutes remaining he confidently dispatched from the penalty spot, after Michael Essien's cross was handled by Michael Carrick.

Manchester City missed the chance to pick up a third successive win as they fell to 3-2 defeat against a doomed-looking Fulham side.

Stephen Ireland had the Eastlands masses saluting in admiration when he beat Fulham goalkeeper Kasey Keller with a sumptuous curler from the edge of the area, after Martin Petrov had back-heeled the ball into his path in the tenth minute.

Their second goal owed more than a little to the ineptitude of Fulham's defending as Darius Vassell exposed a criminally square back four, before pulling back to Benjani Mwaruwari - who had ghosted past three white shirts to register.

Fulham gave themselves a chance of stealing an unlikely point when Diomansy Kamara clipped through the legs of Joe Hart after out-smarting Vedran Corluka with 20 minutes left on the clock.

With 11 minutes remaining, to the bemusement of the majority inside the City of Manchester Stadium, Sun Jihai was adjudged to have felled Erik Nevland in the box. Danny Murphy's spot-kick was meek and saved by Hart - but the Fulham schemer was first to the rebound to grab his side a leveller.

And Murphy's afternoon got even better as his slide-rule pass played in Kamara in stoppage-time, and the striker made no mistake with a thumping finish.

Birmingham's bid to beat the drop could well depend on two points dropped from their clash with Liverpool at St Andrews.

A Liverpool side deplete of several of their top names was exposed in the 34th minute when James McFadden's right-wing delivery was expertly controlled by Mikael Forssell, before an unnerving finish beat Jose Reina.

It got even better for Alex McLeish in the second period when Sebastian Larsson's majestic 55th minute free-kick gave them a comfortable lead.

Crouch made for a nervous finish with his 11th of the campaign, after bright interplay from Jermaine Pennant, Yossi Benayoun and Andriy Voronin played in the front-man.

And with Birmingham firmly on the back foot, luck deserted them as Benayoun's header took a cruel deflection off Radhi Jaidi to nestle in the corner.

Sunderland boss Roy Keane deserves praise for 'substitution of the day' as Murphy needed just the final five minutes to claim the winner in a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough.

A lively affair in the North East saw Middlesbrough enjoy the perfect start as Tuncay Sanli exposed some poor Sunderland defending to rifle Afonso Alves' looped pass across Craig Gordon.

Sunderland's response was almost immediate though, as they found themselves level by the sixth minute as Danny Higginbotham rooted his feet before beating Bradley Jones with a thumping header.

In first-half stoppage-time Michael Chopra had the home crowd off their feet when his industry down the right won him a little space, before he stepped inside a lethargic David Wheater before lashing in via the post with a rasping angled drive.

Boro dragged themselves level when with 17 minutes remaining Julio Arca's deflected drive ricocheted into the path of Alves, who just about beat Gordon and a retreating defender with a finish that rolled agonisingly over the line.

It was, though, to be an afternoon to forget for Boro as Murphy struck in the game's dying embers.

Steed Malbranque won Tottenham a point when his close-range finish from Robbie Keane's deflected shot secured a 1-1 draw with Bolton.

Following what was a first half of precious few opportunities, Bolton substitute Stelios Giannakopulos converted with his first touch after Tottenham goalkeeper Radek Cerny had failed to deal with Gretar Steinsson's low delivery.

West Ham supporters have accused Alan Curbishley of serving up some conservative football this season but there were few complaints about the opening 23 minutes as they raced into a two-goal lead against Newcastle.

East End darling Mark Noble grabbed the first when he arrived from deep to convert past Steve Harper, with a sweeping connection from George McCartney's left-wing delivery.

It got worse for Newcastle when from Bobby Zamora's towering flick, Dean Ashton rolled his too-tight marker to angle home his ninth of the season.

Newcastle under Kevin Keegan are a different proposition of late though and dug deep to draw level by the break. Joey Barton's pass into the path of Obafemi Martins deserved a fine finish and the Nigerian provided just that as he flicked the ball beyond Robert Green.

With the away side in the ascendancy, Geremi struck in first-half stoppage-time as he stooped to divert Martins' mishit shot that had bounced into his path.

In the day's one dud game, Wigan and Reading played out an instantly forgettable 0-0 draw that will perhaps please Steve Bruce more than his namesake Coppell.