West Bromwich Albion, hit by injuries, were still too strong for Leicester City but needed a late goal by the substitute Craig Beattie to win the Midlands derby at the Walkers Stadium and close the gap on Championship leaders Watford to one point.
Albion were on top for most of the first half and took the lead after 31 minutes when Chris Brunt's cross to the far post was met by Zoltan Gera's downward header. Iain Hume challenged Albion's goalkeeper Luke Steele to claim a contentious equaliser in the 75th minute, but two minutes from time Beattie's curling shot from the edge of the Leicester penalty area gave Tony Mowbray's side the three points.
"It was a richly deserved win and if you watched the game you'd have to say the best team won," Mowbray said. "It would have been an injustice if they had got a point with a goal like that. It was a very obvious foul."
Stern John scored a hat-trick in 20 second-half minutes as Southampton thrashed visitors Hull City 4-0 to move within three points of the play-offs. Even closer are Burnley who went seventh after a 3-2 win at Wolves, Robbie Blake, Kyle Lafferty and a Darren Ward own goal the Clarets' scorers.
The threat of administration and a mandatory deduction of 10 points seemed to concentrate minds at Ninian Park, where a court case next year threatens financial disaster for Cardiff City. The Bluebirds made light of their worries and, after falling behind to Colchester United, ran in four second-half goals in a 4-1 mauling that sent the Us into the bottom three. The match between Coventry City, who are under a more imminent threat of administration unless a buyer for the club is found, and Sheffield Wednesday was abandoned after 28 minutes at a waterlogged Hillsborough.
Ched Evans, the young Manchester City striker on loan at Norwich City, scored the only goal of their match against Sheffield United at Carrow Road to lift the reviving Canaries out of the bottom three after a fourth win in five games. The Blades were furious that what looked like a perfectly good Matthew Kilgallon equaliser was ruled offside.
Also taking part in the relegation debate, Preston North End lost 1-0 in the north-west derby with Blackpool, who eased their worries. After 68 minutes, Preston defender Youl Mawene felled Ben Burgess. Wes Hoolahan scored the penalty.
"When you are playing teams around you, you want to win the game or at least not lose," the Seasiders' manager, Simon Grayson, said. "It's taken us five points clear of Preston and dragged one or two back into it."
Below Preston, Akos Buzsaky scored twice to earn Queens Park Rangers a 2-2 draw at Scunthorpe United. Elsewhere, Crystal Palace held on for a point from a 0-0 draw at Barnsley.
In League One, Jermaine Beckford scored twice as Leeds United thumped Huddersfield Town 4-0 in a West Yorkshire derby watched by 32,501, the highest crowd at that level since 1979.Reuse content