Manchester City missed the chance to cut the gap to Manchester United at the top of the Barclays Premier League after they were held to a goalless draw by bottom side Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
On the day that AC Milan confirmed they had agreed a deal with City over the signing of Mario Balotelli, the champions appeared blunt in attack amid a subdued display against a QPR side who are now four points from safety after an unbeaten January in the league.
Pablo Zabaleta headed against the crossbar and Julio Cesar denied David Silva in the second half as City dropped crucial points in their attempts to retain their league title which they won for the first time in 44 years after a last gasp Sergio Aguero goal against Rangers on the final day of last season.
Leaders United can reestablish a seven-point lead they held before Christmas when they face Southampton on Wednesday.
A new-look Newcastle United pulled four points clear of the relegation zone after overcoming fellow strugglers Aston Villa at Villa Park to pile the pressure on manager Paul Lambert whose side pluge back into the bottom three.
Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko both made their debuts for the Magpies, with the latter setting up Papiss Cisse for the opener, before another of the club's much-documented French contingent, Yohan Cabaye scored his first goal since his six-week injury lay-off on the half-hour mark.
Villa, who were knocked out of the League Cup and the FA Cup in the space of four days last week, sought to revive their survival hopes as Christian Benteke halved the defect with a penalty after the break after Mathieu Debuchy fouled substitute Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Nathan Baker saw his header cleared off the line by Jonas Gutierrez as the hosts dominated the second half, but Alan Pardew's men clung on to secure their first away win of the season on the ground at which their relegation into The Championship was confirmed on the final day of the 2008/09 campaign.
Wigan Athletic staged a second half recovery from two goals down at the Britannia Stadium against Stoke City down to climb out of the bottom three.
Ryan Shawcross had capitalised on some slack Latics defending to volley home and Peter Crouch ended his 17-match goal drought either side of the interval to hand the home side a comfortable lead.
But after James McArther's deft finish gave the visitors hope, the Scot's knockdown allowed Franco di Santo to volley home smartly to share the points.
The evening's fourth game saw Swansea City hold Sunderland to a stalemate at the Stadium of the Light in a game of few chances.
Swans striker Danny Graham, who is understood to have submitted a transfer request in order to force through a move to The Black Cats, spurned the only chance of a timid 90 minutes, but Titus Bramble hocked clear as the point cemented both sides' mid-table status.
To report problems or to leave feedback about this article, e-mail:
To contact the editor, e-mail: