Barclays Premier League leaders Liverpool took full advantage of Chelsea's slip-up with a battling 3-2 win at Norwich City on Sunday. The London club's shock defeat by Sunderland on Saturday gave Brendan Rodgers' side the chance to open up a five-point lead at the top of the table with victory at Carrow Road.
Raheem Sterling's brace, which sandwiched a Luis Suarez strike, ensured they did that, despite a second-half fightback from the hosts.
Sterling and Suarez scored within the opening 11 minutes as Norwich failed to deal with a trademark blistering start from Liverpool. Sterling picked up where he left off against Manchester City last week by firing Rodgers' men ahead, before Norwich's nemesis Suarez, who has 12 goals in just five matches against the club, doubled the advantage soon after.
Norwich responded superbly after the interval and Gary Hooper's first league goal since Boxing Day reduced the arrears. Sterling was on hand to settle any Liverpool nerves just after the hour with his second goal, although they were forced to endure a nervy final 13 minutes after Robert Snodgrass nodded home Martin Olsson's cross.
Liverpool's 11th Barclays Premier League win in a row, a club record, puts them firmly in the driving seat for a first top-flight title since 1990, while Norwich remain just two points above the relegation zone.
Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva came in for Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson, absent through injury and suspension, with Sterling reprising his role at the tip of a midfield diamond that caused City so many problems last week.
Just as he did against Manuel Pellegrini's team, the in-form teenager gave Liverpool an ideal start by breaking the deadlock in stunning fashion after four minutes. Philippe Coutinho fed Sterling, who dipped inside and drove an unstoppable shot past the helpless John Ruddy, with the aid of a slight deflection off Michael Turner, from 25 yards.
The visitors were playing with a verve and swagger that has often been evident during their fantastic run of form, and Allen forced Ruddy into a fine save before Suarez, inevitably, got on the scoresheet with his 30th Barclays Premier League goal of the season. Jon Flanagan fed Sterling down the left and he rolled a weighted ball across the face of goal for Suarez, who evaded Turner before calmly side-footing past Ruddy from eight yards.
Norwich responded admirably and Hooper was only denied what looked a goal by Allen's last-ditch intervention in the area. Having started the second half on the front foot, Norwich got back into the game nine minutes after the restart when Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made a mess of a cross under pressure from Bradley Johnson and Hooper was on hand to finish from close range.
Sterling quickly restored the visitors' two-goal cushion, as he capitalised on Johnson's wayward pass to run at the heart of the Norwich defence, before beating Ruddy with a left-footed shot that took a wicked deflection off Johnson.
Snodgrass's header 13 minutes from time gave a spirited Norwich side a glimmer of hope, but Liverpool held on for a crucial three points as Mignolet kept out a late header from substitute Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Norwich manager Neil Adams: “We deserved something from the game for our second-half performance. [The first half] was not good enough. We were playing a top-class team and if you give them an inch they will punish you.
"But second half, I couldn't ask any more. We started dominating the ball but it's always like this against the top teams. "[I am] very confident we can survive, but we must do better than that first half."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "I think he is the best young player in European football at the moment. He is 19 years of age and I don't see anyone better. He is intelligent with the ball and he has been concentrating on scoring goals.
"His first goal was a wonderful strike and his pass for Luis' goal was like a top midfield player. Then there was his positioning for the counter-attack for the third goal. His overall performance has shown so much maturity and, for me, he is the best young player in European football at the moment."
"We have qualified for the Champions League, which was our target. We cannot finish any lower than third, which is an incredible achievement. Now we have the chance to play in the group stages. We just want to continue and finish the final three games as best as we can."