Liverpool opened up a nine-point lead a the top of the Premier League after thrashing Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield, as Tottenham suffered a shock defeat to Wolves.
With third-placed Manchester City playing Southampton on Sunday, Liverpool capped an astonishing month with their ninth successive league victory to leave manager Jurgen Klopp conceding that he “had nothing to moan about”.
Struggling Cardiff and Fulham bolstered their survival chances in the Premier League with added-time goals in 1-0 wins at Leicester and home to Huddersfield respectively.
Brighton beat Everton by the same score and Watford equalised late to draw 1-1 with Newcastle.
Anfield has become such a fortress that even the unexpected setback of Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ early goal did not knock Liverpool off their stride.
Within minutes, Roberto Firmino hit them with a scoring one-two – his second goal a brilliant solo effort – with a further strike from Sadio Mane and a penalty from Mohamed Salah following before half-time.
Firmino rounded off the scoring with another spot-kick as Liverpool, who next travel to Manchester City on Thursday, cruised home to leave no one in doubt as to their title credentials.
Tottenham’s day could hardly have started better with England’s Harry Kane marking his award of an MBE for services to sport in the New Year Honours list with a stunning left-foot strike that looked likely to kick off another goal-fest.
But the inconsistent visitors from the Midlands refused to roll over and hit the home side with three goals in 18 second-half minutes through Willy Boly, Raul Jimenez and Helder Costa as Wembley was silenced, along with talk of Tottenham’s title challenge.
The drama came even later at Fulham where Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the winner in stoppage time to frustrate their relegation rivals Huddersfield.
Fulham’s joy was all the greater because they had earlier missed a penalty amid extraordinary scenes after their players tried to take the ball off Aboubakar Kamara as he stepped up to take the spot kick.
His team-mates wanted Mitrovic to take the penalty but Kamara refused, disobeying the orders of Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri, only to look deeply embarrassed seconds later when his effort was saved by Jonas Lossl.
At Leicester, Cardiff’s Neil Etheridge saved James Maddison’s 75th-minute penalty to set up a victory secured by Victor Camarasa’s stunning stoppage-time strike for the Welsh side, who are now four points above the drop zone.