Leicester City went within three wins of claiming the Premier League title after Jamie Vardy struck twice to plunge Sunderland deeper into relegation trouble at the Stadium of Light. Vardy took his top flight tally for the season to 21 with two goals in the second half to give the Foxes a fifth straight win, a result which guarantees them qualification for next season's Champions League and keeps their seven-point lead at the summit intact.
Sam Allardyce's side meanwhile remain four points from 17th place Norwich City and take on the Canaries in a relegation six-pointer next weekend at Carrow Road. Jack Rodwell and Fabio Borini both missed guilt-edged opportunities in the second half but Ranieri was grateful his main striker was on form again.
"It was a difficult match," Ranieri told the club's official website. "Maybe we were nervous because Sunderland was very tough. Every tackle was a strong tackle but slowly, slowly we got better and created chances. In the second half we scored twice and created a lot of chances to finish the match early. Also they had one or two chances to level the match but it's okay.
"When we score and don't concede a goal, I'm always pleased. Always I want the players to show fantastic character and today they showed it. We managed the ball so well late on, we kept possession, we were fast on the counter attack and we showed a good performance. It's a fantastic season but it's not finished yet."
Tottenham Hotspur closed the gap to seven points as they swept aside Manchester United with a thrilling second half display. Dele Alli – the day before his 20th birthday - Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela struck in a seven-minute period after half time to give Mauricio Pochettino's side hope in the title race and leave United four points behind Manchester City in the race for the top four. Spurs travel to Stoke on Monday [18 April] after Leicester host West Ham United.
"We knew how good the opposition were and it was important that we keep on winning games," goal-scorer Alli said. "They were not going to make it easy for us but we knew the chances would come if we kept patient. My target was for 10 goals and I think that is eight now."
Elsewhere, Liverpool leapfrogged Stoke City as Divock Origi's scoring streak continued with a double in a heavy win at Anfield. Alberto Moreno hammered home the opener before Bojan headed the equaliser as the Reds were again caught out from a set-piece.
Peter Crouch nearly marked his return to Merseyside with a goal but it was ruled out for offside and Jurgen Klopp's side wouldn't look back from there as they took control either side of half time. Daniel Sturridge nodded home via a cross from a cross by Sheyi Ojo – making his first Premier League start – before Origi netted his first after James Milner's delivery. The Belgian made it four after finding the corner to keep alive Liverpool's European ambitions.