Chelsea's new interim manager Guus Hiddink saw his team beat Sunderland 3-1 on Saturday, while Norwich City won at Manchester United to add to the woes of their manager Louis van Gaal.
Appointed prior to kick-off in place of the sacked Jose Mourinho, Hiddink was in the stands at a discontented Stamford Bridge as Chelsea prevailed through goals from Branislav Ivanovic, Pedro Rodriguez and Oscar.
The match unfurled amid tension, as Chelsea's fans took out their anger over Mourinho's dismissal on their own players, and there was also a bilious atmosphere at Old Trafford, where Norwich won 2-1.
It was United's third straight defeat in all competitions, sending them out of the top four, and saw Van Gaal assailed with boos from the home supporters and chants of "Jose Mourinho, he's taking your job!" from the away end.
United's next home fixture is against Chelsea on December 28 and social media was quickly abuzz with speculation that Mourinho could find himself sitting in Van Gaal's seat by then.
A world away from the managerial intrigue, Claudio Ranieri, the former Chelsea manager, saw his Leicester City side win 3-2 at Everton to guarantee that they will top the table on Christmas Day.
Hiddink, 69, has returned to Chelsea in the hope of pulling off a salvage job similar to the one he masterminded in 2009, when he led the club to FA Cup glory after being parachuted in by owner Roman Abramovich.
With first-team coach Steve Holland taking charge of the team, Hiddink sat alongside Abramovich and former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba as the bedraggled champions began life without Mourinho.
Pro-Mourinho banners were visible around the ground -- one bearing the message "You let Jose down, you let us down" -- and his name was chanted by the home supporters right from kick-off.
Despite the hostility from their fans, Chelsea made a storming start, Ivanovic heading in Willian's corner in the fifth minute and Pedro slamming home from Willian's cross eight minutes later.
Oscar added a third early in the second half with a penalty, before Fabio Borini replied from close range for the visitors. Victory took Chelsea up to 15th place, four points clear of the relegation zone.
Leicester continue winning run
United are now nine points adrift of Leicester in fifth place after Cameron Jerome and Alexander Tettey scored either side of half-time to give Norwich a first win at Old Trafford since August 1989.
Wayne Rooney, back after three games out with an ankle injury, made his 500th United appearance, but having lost the ball in the build-up to the 55th-minute Tettey goal that was to prove the winner, it is not an occasion he will recall fondly.
It could prove an even costlier result for Van Gaal, who sat impassively in his seat as United vainly pushed for an equaliser after Anthony Martial reduced the arrears in the 65th minute.
Already feeling the heat from United's fans over the dire quality of his side's football, he has now presided over six games without a win in all competitions.
Tottenham Hotspur took advantage by winning 2-0 at Southampton to capture fourth place, Harry Kane, after a neat run, and Dele Alli scoring within three minutes of each other late in the first half.
Riyad Mahrez scored twice from the penalty spot, with Shinji Okazaki also on target, as Leicester won 3-2 at Everton, who netted through Romelu Lukaku, scorer for the seventh league game running, and Kevin Mirallas.
Bottom of the table this time last year, Leicester provisionally moved five points above Arsenal and six clear of Manchester City, who face off at the Emirates Stadium on Monday.
Lee Chung-Yong's thumping 89th-minute goal saw sixth-place Crystal Palace win 2-1 at Stoke City, while Charlie Daniels's penalty gave Bournemouth a 2-1 victory at West Bromwich Albion, who had James McClean and Salomon Rondon sent off. Bottom club Aston Villa visit fourth-bottom Newcastle United in the late game.
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