Two second-half goals by Billy Sharp, the Southampton striker who joined Saints from Doncaster Rovers in January, eased his side to a 2-0 win over visitors Rovers and move them nine points clear of third-placed West Ham United. Sharp headed in his first just before the hour and wrapped up the win when he fired home from inside the area with 15 minutes remaining.
But the Hammers' hopes of automatic promotion suffered another setback at Turf Moor after a fifth consecutive stalemate. Trailing 2-0 to Burnley at the break, goals by Kevin Nolan and James Tomkins in the space of two minutes earned a 2-2 draw. West Ham play their game in hand on Tuesday, at Peterborough United, then host second-placed Reading next Saturday.
"I'm flabbergasted how we did not win that," the West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce, said. "Whatever we did we couldn't find the net."
Elsewhere in the top six, Brighton, fourth, led 1-0 at Nottingham Forest but had Matt Sparrow sent off in the 90th minute and soon after Joe Lynch levelled for Forest. It ended 1-1 as it did at the Riverside where Hogan Ephraim's cool 13th-minute finish gave Bristol City the lead over sixth-placed Middlesbrough. Boro's half-time substitute Malaury Martin equalised; City's Ryan McGivern was sent off.
Hull City, two points outside the top six, led briefly in the first-half at Leicester City but goals by Lloyd Dyer and Ben Marshall gave the Foxes a 2-1 win despite the late dismissal of Neil Danns.
In the bottom three, Coventry City beat Portsmouth 2-0 and are now unbeaten in five matches and one point from safety.
After the seven-goal home defeat by Nottingham Forest, Leeds United regained some self-respect from a 1-0 win at Millwall, Andy Lonergan keeping the lead intact with a penalty save after Ross McCormack had put Leeds ahead. Watford came from behind to win their mid-table clash with Ipswich Town 2-1 at Vicarage Road, Derby County beat Crystal Palace 3-2 at Pride Park, at Oakwell 10-man Barnsley – Nathan Doyle was sent off after 32 minutes – held on to beat Peterborough 1-0.
Jordan Rhodes' 33rd goal of the season, a 14th-minute penalty, broke fourth-placed Huddersfield Town's post-war scoring record and earned a 1-0 win over leaders Charlton. Sheffield Wednesday moved up to second after a 1-0 win at Leyton Orient.