Premier League round-up
Man City moved five points clear at the top, Chelsea eased the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas, while Terry Connor picked up a draw with Wolves.
Last Updated: 25/02/12 7:37pm
Manchester City moved five points clear as they cruised past Blackburn, Chelsea eased the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas with a win over Bolton, while Terry Connor picked up a battling draw against Newcastle in his first game in charge of Wolves
Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes had a miserable afternoon against old club Fulham, as West Brom secured a surprisingly easy victory at home to Sunderland and Wigan drew with Aston Villa.
Mario Balotelli returned to domestic action after suspension to help Manchester City cruise past struggling Blackburn 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium and open up a five-point lead at the top of the table, with Manchester United not in action until Sunday.
The Italy international, who was hit with a four-game ban from the Football Association after his clash with Scott Parker back in January, opened the scoring on the half-hour mark after good work from David Silva and Aleksandar Kolarov.
Sergio Aguero doubled their advantage early in the second period before substitute Edin Dzeko made an immediate impact with the third 10 minutes from time, with Joe Hart barely troubled by Rovers.
Andre Villas-Boas has deflected talk about his future this week by staying focused on Chelsea's pursuit of a top-four finish, and the Blues moved into the final UEFA Champions League qualification spot by defeating Bolton 3-0.
David Luiz, often praised more for his attacking attributes than defensive qualities, fired Chelsea in front with a fine strike on 48 minutes after a frustrating stalemate in the first half.
Didier Drogba added a second with a header from a corner just before the hour mark, and Frank Lampard tucked home a third in the 79th minute to leave the Trotters deep in relegation trouble.
Wolves have spent the past fortnight searching for a new manager but the man given the reins, Connor, proved his credentials by masterminding a second-half turnaround to draw 2-2 with Newcastle at St James' Park.
January signing Papiss Cisse further endeared himself to the Newcastle faithful with the opening goal after just six minutes, providing a clever finishing touch to Cheick Tiote's wayward shot following a mistake by Christophe Berra.
Jonas Gutierrez then blasted an unstoppable second into the top corner on 18 minutes, before Wolves reduced their arrears early in the second half thanks to a deflected Matt Jarvis effort.
Kevin Doyle scrambled in an equaliser after Newcastle failed to deal with a Jamie O'Hara free-kick in the 66th minute
Fulham took the West London bragging rights following a 1-0 victory over 10-man Queens Park Rangers that keeps Hughes' side firmly in the mire.
Fulham had already had a goal disallowed for offside by the time Pavel Pogrebnyak did make it 1-0 inside seven minutes, with the Russian striker latching on to a delightful Moussa Dembele back-heel to round Paddy Kenny and continue his fine introduction to the Premier League.
While Pogrebnyak has made a positive impact, Samba Diakite was sent off 33 minutes into a disastrous QPR debut after being given a second yellow card following a string of fouls in midfield.
QPR battled hard from that point on in an effort to get back into the game, but could not find a leveller and are now just a point off the bottom.
A serious-looking injury to Aston Villa striker Darren Bent overshadowed an uninspiring goalless draw against Wigan at the DW Stadium.
There was little goalmouth action in either half and the main talking point occurred towards the end when Bent had to be stretchered off with an ankle problem, which could be a major blow for England as well as Villa.
West Brom improved their disappointing home record with a crushing 4-0 success against Sunderland at The Hawthorns.
Fresh from scoring a hat-trick in the Black Country derby, it took Peter Odemwingie just three minutes to break the deadlock with a glancing header past Simon Mignolet from Youssouf Mulumbu's left-wing cross.
James Morrison nodded in a second for the Baggies before half-time from Jerome Thomas' deep delivery, and Odemwingie made it 3-0 at the start of the second period following a fast break that was launched by a Ben Foster throw.
Keith Andrews curled in a fourth to catapult West Brom further away from danger and remind Martin O'Neill that he still has a lot of work to do with the Black Cats.