Marcus Tudgay's goal after 51 seconds at the City Ground was all Nottingham Forest needed to beat Watford 1-0 and claim the Championship's second automatic promotion place with two games in hand on most of the sides around them.
Norwich City's hopes of consecutive promotions were tested at Turf Moor where goals by Dean Marney and Jay Rodriguez saw Burnley win 2-1. The Clarets, who tried to lure the Canaries manager Paul Lambert to Turf Moor earlier in the season, are within five points of the top six.
Lambert was not too disheartedned to lose to a side relegated last May. "We gave as good as we got," he said. "If we keep playing like that, we'll be fine."
Leeds United could also win promotion two seasons running. Davide Somma's second-half strike that earned a 1-0 win over visitors Coventry City, kept them on course for a top six finish.
It was a grim day for all three sides in the bottom three. Preston North End were thrashed 4-0 at home by Bristol City, Dave Clarkson scoring twice, while Scunthorpe United were humbled in the Humber derby as Hull City ran out 5-1 winners, Matt Fryatt netting a hat-trick. Sheffield United also remain mired in the relegation places after losing 3-0 at resurgent Ipswich Town. The Blades ended with nine men, Rob Kozluk and Lee Williamson seeing red after the scoring had finished.
James Vaughan's goal saw Crystal Palace beat Middlesbrough 1-0, their first win under Dougie Freedman. Leicester City and Millwall are within touching distance of the top six, the Foxes after a 4-1 beating of Barnsley, Andy King scoring twice, while Kevin Lisbie's late goal saw the Lions beat Doncaster Rovers 1-0. Derby County drew 1-1 at Portsmouth.
Gary Megson's eventful first match as Sheffield Wednesday manager saw the Owls trail 2-0 to MK Dons who had Gary Mackenzie sent off sparking a Wednesday recovery. It ended 2-2 with Dons down to nine after Pete Leven was also sent off. Brentford sacked manager Andy Scott last week, and yesterday beat Plymouth Argyle 2-0.
Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 3-0 to set a record of 16 consecutive league victories, beating Real Madrid's 50-year-old mark. Villarreal slipped to a 1-0 home defeat by relegation candidates Levante and missed the chance to move closer to second-placed Real, who take on Real Sociedad at the Bernabeu today aiming to cut into Barca's 10-point advantage.