By Simon Fudge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
A Gary McSheffrey hat-trick gave Birmingham City a 3-1 win over Preston North End.
Birmingham City remain top of the Championship table after a Gary McSheffrey hat-trick gave them a 3-1 victory over Preston North End.
In undoubtedly the game of the day between the division's top two sides, it was Preston that started the brighter at St Andrews.
David Nugent hit a post and Brett Ormerod went close before Blues cruelly claimed the lead through former Coventry City striker McSheffrey on 32 minutes.
He then doubled Birmingham's advantage five minutes before the break before Ormerod deservedly pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time.
Steve Bruce's side wrapped up all three points when McSheffrey claimed his third goal from the penalty spot just before the end.
It leaves Birmingham three points clear at the summit after Derby County moved up to second with a 1-0 win at struggling Leeds United.
Rams youngster Giles Barnes (9) headed home Jon Stead's cross to claim the points at Elland Road and heap more misery on Dennis Wise's side.
Cardiff City are third after being held to a 2-2 home draw by Ipswich Town.
Darren Purse (3) gave The Bluebirds an early lead that lasted until half-time, but Ipswich levelled matters soon after the break through Jonathan Macken (48).
Purse then converted from the penalty spot on 66 minutes to restore Cardiff's lead, but Macken made sure Jim Magilton's side took a point away from South Wales with a penalty of his own seven minutes later.
Stoke City defeated Queens Park Rangers 1-0 at The Britannia Stadium, with Danny Higginbotham (17) converting from the penalty spot after QPR defender Mauro Milanese had brought down Potters striker Ricardo Fuller in the visitors' box.
Bottom club Southend United gave their survival chances a boost with an impressive 2-1 home win over improving Southampton.
Freddy Eastwood (22) gave The Shrimpers the lead before Alan McCormack (64) doubled the Essex club's advantage.
Grzegorz Rasiak (87) struck a consolation for The Saints, who remain in the play-off places after defeat at Roots Hall.
Coventry City claimed a valuable 1-0 home win over Burnley after Colin Cameron (31) converted from the penalty spot following Wayne Thomas's foul in the box on Dele Adebola.
Colchester United are two points off the top six after an impressive 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.
All the goals came in the second half at Selhurst Park, with Karl Duguid (63) and Richard Garcia (70) putting The U's in front.
Clinton Morrison (87) got one back for The Eagles before Geraint Williams's side sealed the three points with a late Chris Iwelumo penalty.
A Sylvan Ebanks-Blake strike (71) gave Plymouth Argyle a 1-0 home win over struggling Hull City, while Sheffield Wednesday claimed a dramatic 2-1 success at Norwich City.
All the goals came in the last ten minutes at Carrow Road, as Wednesday's Madjid Bougherra crashed a fierce strike against the crossbar before the ball went off Norwich goalkeeper Lee Camp and into his own net.
Deon Burton (83) then made it two for The Owls before Dion Dublin (85) pulled a goal back in a losing effort for The Canaries.
Roy Keane's Sunderland are back in the promotion chase after seeing off Luton Town 2-1 at The Stadium of Light.
Dean Morgan (5) gave Luton the lead on Wearside before Daryl Murphy (9) brought The Black Cats level.
David Connolly (53) claimed the points for the North East club that take Sunderland to within three points of the play-off places.
Finally, Leicester City defeated Midlands rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 at Molineux.
Elvis Hammond (38) gave The Foxes the lead before Lewis Gobern (81) looked to gave claimed a point for Wolves.
It was left to Foxes youngster Levi Porter to snatch a winner for Leicester in the dying stages.
Click below for match summaries:
Birmingham City 3-1 Preston North End
Cardiff City 2-2 Ipswich Town
Coventry City 1-0 Burnley
Crystal Palace 1-3 Colchester United
Leeds United 0-1 Derby County
Norwich City 1-2 Sheffield Wednesday
Plymouth Argyle 1-0 Hull City
Southend United 2-1 Southampton
Stoke City 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Sunderland 2-1 Luton Town
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-2 Leicester City