Two minutes after coming on as an 86th-minute substitute for Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers, Ishmael Miller fired in the game's only goal as Neil Warnock's side won 1-0 in a hard-fought match with play-off hopefuls Leicester City to open up an eight-point gap.
"A fantastic result," said Warnock. "Leicester were as good as we've played this season, and if we'd lost or drawn I couldn't have complained. It was a great spectacle."
Both Swansea and Norwich, who had fixtures against relegation strugglers, slipped up. Swans lost 1-0 at Scunthorpe, Ashley Williams bringing down Joe Garner, who thumped in the penalty. The Canaries' Wes Hoolahan had a similar chance at Carrow Road, chose to dink the ball in but only chipped it into the arms of Iain Turner, goalkeeper of bottom side Preston. The match ended 1-1.
That point was enough to lift Norwich to fourth, above Nott-ingham Forest, who lost after a run of 36 unbeaten home League games, Matt Fryatt's run and shot giving Hull City a 1-0 win.
Cardiff missed the chance to go second, Jimmy Bullard's two strikes from distance earning visitors Ipswich a 2-0 win.
Max Gradel starred in sixth-placed Leeds' 5-2 defeat of Yorkshire rivals Doncaster and Burnley are just outside the top six after Jay Rodriguez's 25-yard shot was enough to beat Crystal Palace 1-0, while Ports-mouth's 1-0 win over visitors Sheffield United kept the Blades in relegation trouble.
Marlon King was sent off as Coventry City lost 4-1 at home to Bristol City, Ian Harte and Shane Long both scored twice as Reading thumped Middlesbrough 5-2, there was no happy return to Watford, where Millwall manager Kenny Jackett played with distinction for 10 years, the Lions losing 1-0. Derby and Barnsley drew 0-0.
Docked 10 points, plunged into administration, players and staff not paid, Plymouth found solace on the pitch with a handsome 4-2 win at Sheffield Wed-nesday. Swindon Town, who replaced manager Danny Wilson with Paul Hart last week, drew 0-0 at home to Walsall.
Craig Davies scored twice as Chesterfield won 3-0 at Cheltenham to go 11 points clear.
Barcelona warmed up for their attempt to overturn Arsenal's 2-1 lead in the Champions' League quarter-final at the Nou Camp by beating Zaragoza 1-0 at home. With Busquets, Iniesta and Villa rested, Seydou Keita scored from a cross by Lionel Messi. Tottenham's opponents, Milan, won 1-0 at Juventus with a goal from Gennaro Gattuso, who is banned from the match at White Hart Lane for butting Spurs coach Joe Jordan after his side lost 1-0 in the first leg.