Chelsea scrambled a 2-1 home win over west London rivals Fulham on Monday as two goals in two minutes saved them from what was looking like a first home defeat for more than a year.
Tottenham Hotspur moved back into the top four with a 2-0 victory over struggling London rivals West Ham United, while in the day's late match Manchester City gave new boss Roberto Mancini a second straight win with a 3-0 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Chelsea's win moved them five points clear at the top from Manchester United, although United have a match in hand against Wigan Athletic on Wednesday.
Chelsea have 45 points from 20 games, followed by United on 40 from 19, Arsenal 38 from 19 and Spurs 37 from 20. Aston Villa are fifth with 35 from 20 followed by Manchester City who have 35 from 19.
City, who gave new manager Mancini a winning start with a 2-0 victory over Stoke on Saturday, followed that up with a superb performance at Wolves with Carlos Tevez scoring twice and another from Javier Garrido, who scored with a free-kick.
"It was a fantastic performance," said Mancini, who took over from Mark Hughes on Dec. 19 and guided City to their first away win for four months.
"To play like that just two days after beating Stoke makes me very happy because we played very well. We suffered a bit during the game but I am very happy for the players."
Birmingham City are up to seventh on 32 after their 1-0 win at Stoke City extended their unbeaten run to a top flight club record of 11.
Fulham took a fourth minute lead at Stamford Bridge through Zoltan Gera before a Didier Drogba header in the 73rd minute and an own goal from Premier League debutant Chris Smalling two minutes later rescued Chelsea, who had lost one and drawn three of their previous five league games.
Fulham, who beat Manchester United nine days ago and also took the scalp of Liverpool in October, got off to a flyer at a ground where they had not won for 30 years with Gera scoring the opening goal.
Chelsea went on the offensive immediately but though they dominated possession for the rest of the half they struggled to create chances.
Mark Schwarzer saved well from Drogba after an hour to raise Fulham's hopes of hanging on but the game then turned completely.
Drogba, who sets off for Nations Cup duty on Monday, headed the equaliser from a deep Branislav Ivanovic cross and Schwarzer then parried a Daniel Sturridge shot against team mate Smalling for an own goal.
"It was not easy to change the game after the first half...we didn't play well," Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti told Sky Sports.
"In the second half we played with more determination. We wanted to win this game and we changed the system...we did a fantastic job."
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson said: "To have the lead for so long and defend that lead for over 70 minutes and then concede two goals in two minutes was a little bit tough.
"I am disappointed with the result, bound to be, but quite buoyed by the performance."
Tottenham continued their push for a top-four finish with a well-deserved win over struggling West Ham at White Hart Lane.
An electrifying burst by winger Aaron Lennon set up Luka Modric, making his first start since August, who scored after 11 minutes while Jermain Defoe settled it nine minutes from time after a sharp counter-attack.
The busy holiday programme continues on Tuesday when Villa host Liverpool (1945GMT) and Bolton Wanderers meet Hull City (2000) in a match between two of the bottom three clubs.