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City on top as five-star United stay in touch

Manchester City maintained their two-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 defeat of Stoke as rivals Manchester United destroyed Fulham 5-0 to stay in touch.

City ensured they will lead the top-flight at Christmas for the first time since 1929 after wrapping up all three points courtesy of two goals from Sergio Aguero either side of a long-range strike from Adam Johnson.

"We are happy but as I said three days ago it's important to stay top at the end of the season," City manager Roberto Mancini said.

"But for our supporters I think it's a good Christmas. If we want to win the championship we should get 90 points because Manchester United keep winning."

Manchester United enjoyed a similarly routine stroll at Craven Cottage, crushing Fulham to stay in second place.

Danny Welbeck fired United ahead on five minutes, the England striker sweeping in Nani's low cross after the Portuguese winger took flight on a solo run down the right wing.

Nani doubled the lead on 28 minutes before Ryan Giggs scored the 19,999th goal in Premier League history to make it 3-0 just before half-time as United piled on the agony for the Cottagers.

A 35-yard wonder strike from Wayne Rooney made it 4-0 before Dimitar Berbatov completed the scoring with a cheeky back-heeled fifth.

Sir Alex Ferguson described United's victory as "one of our best performances of the season."

"It's not an easy place to come to. But tonight the players were right on song," Ferguson said.

Fifth-placed Arsenal meanwhile went level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea after a last-gasp 2-1 win over Aston Villa.

Arsenal captain Robin van Persie shot the Gunners ahead from the penalty spot on 17 minutes after Ciaran Clark pulled down Theo Walcott.

But Villa came back strongly in the second half and Marc Albrighton's 54th minute strike -- the 20,000th goal in Premier League history -- got Alex McLeish's side back on level terms.

Yet just as it looked as if Arsenal would be forced to settle for a draw, Yossi Benayoun headed in van Persie's corner on 87 minutes to clinch all three points for the Londoners to make it eight wins from their last 10 games.

At the DW Stadium, a defiant Liverpool side rallied around embattled striker Luis Suarez but the Merseysiders were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Wigan.

Suarez, banned for eight matches on Tuesday after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra, lined up for Liverpool but was unable to break the deadlock as the Reds were left ruing a missed penalty.

Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi was the hero for the Latics, saving Charlie Adam's spot-kick to help earn Roberto Martinez' side a precious point.

It was a disappointing result for Kenny Dalglish's team, who had warmed up wearing "Suarez 7" shirts in a show of support for the Uruguayan.

At St James Park, Newcastle's Senegalese striker Demba Ba maintained his phenomenal Premier League goalscoring record but it was not enough to prevent the Magpies crashing to a 3-2 defeat against West Brom.

The Baggies went ahead on 20 minutes, Peter Odemwingie supplying a cool finish after a defence-splitting through ball from Chris Brunt.

Newcastle got back on level terms in the 34th minute, Ba grabbing his 12th of the season with a curling free-kick.

West Brom were back in front on the stroke of half-time however, Gareth McAuley nodding in from close range.

Ba looked to have earned a point for Newcastle with his second on 81 minutes but West Brom's Austrian midfielder Paul Scharner snatched victory with an 85th-minute winner.

Elsewhere Wednesday, Wes Brown was the hero for Sunderland as Martin O'Neill's side overcame a brave second half fightback to pip Queens Park Rangers 3-2 at Loftus Road.

QPR looked dead and buried midway through the second half after goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Stephane Sessegnon put the Black Cats 2-0 up.

But two goals in four minutes from Heidar Helguson and Jamie Mackie looked to have given QPR a share of the points at 2-2 only for Brown to pop up with the winner on 89 minutes.

At Goodison Park, Leon Osman scored the game's only goal as Everton pipped newly promoted Swansea 1-0.

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