Championship Review: Newcastle United go five points clear, Sheffield Wednesday thump Norwich City
Newcastle United capitalised on Brighton and Hove Albion's slip-up as they moved five points clear at the top of the Championship table with a crucial 3-1 victory at third-placed Huddersfield Town.
Inspired by Brighton's defeat to Nottingham Forest earlier on Saturday, Rafael Benitez's side raced into a 2-0 lead by half-time at the John Smith's Stadium, with Dwight Gayle adding a third in stoppage time after Aaron Mooy's penalty had brought the hosts back into the contest.
Elsewhere, Jordan Rhodes returned to scoring form as Sheffield Wednesday consolidated their grip on sixth place with a 5-1 thrashing of Norwich City, while Reading got back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Wolves.
At the other end of the table, relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic lost 1-0 in the Lancashire derby with Blackburn Rovers, with Aston Villa claiming their third successive league victory as they despatched rock-bottom Rotherham.
MAGPIES SOARING HIGH
A vital victory for Newcastle was secured in second-half stoppage-time, when Gayle capitalised on a calamitous error from Huddersfield's substitute goalkeeper Joel Coleman to nudge home the visitors' third, opening up an 11-point gap between first and third place in the process.
The excellent Matt Ritchie had put Benitez's side ahead from the spot early on, with Daryl Murphy getting the better of Danny Ward to convert Newcastle's second soon after.
Ward was taken off injured at half-time, and although David Wagner's side fought back through Mooy's well-taken spot-kick, the game will be remembered for Coleman's late cameo.
After making his way upfield for a Huddersfield corner, the 21-year-old was deceived by a long ball from deep, enabling Gayle to steal in behind him and wrap up the points as Newcastle edge closer to a return to the Premier League.
FIVE-STAR OWLS DEMOLISH CANARIES
It took just 22 minutes for Ross Wallace and Rhodes to put Wednesday into a commanding lead, with Morgan Fox adding a third prior to the interval after Cameron Jerome had hauled one back for the visitors.
However, Wednesday made light work of Norwich's defence after the break - Rhodes netting his third goal for the Owls before Fernando Forestieri made it five with 24 minutes remaining.
It's a humiliating defeat for Alex Neil's men, who have won just one of their last five fixtures, but it cements Wednesday's hold on the final play-off spot, with a five-point gap having now opened up between Carlos Carvalhal's side and the chasing pack.
SEAGULLS FALL FOUL OF FOREST YOUNGSTERS
Brighton lost ground in the hunt for top spot in controversial fashion, as two late goals from Forest secured a 3-0 win for the hosts at the City Ground.
From an offside position, Britt Assombalonga appeared to have got the final touch on Zach Clough's opener - even going as far as to celebrate the goal - though it was credited to the youngster.
Brighton went close through Lewis Dunk and Anthony Knockaert, but late efforts from Clough and Ben Osborn ensured it was Forest who snatched the spoils.
Buzzing to get off the mark this afternoon! Great team performance and we move on to Tuesday in good spirits! The atmosphere was unreal pic.twitter.com/6gzVKugoaz-- Zach Clough (@ZachClough) March 4, 2017
READING DISMANTLE WOLVES
Jaap Stam's Reading side made further progress in their bid to secure a play-off berth as they inflicted a fifth successive league defeat on Wolves at the Madejski Stadium.
In a flurry of activity at the start of the second half, Yann Kermorgant helped Liam Moore's shot past Carl Ikeme to give Reading the lead, only for Ben Marshall to restore parity inside two minutes.
Reading had the last laugh, though, Paul McShane heading in brilliantly with 12 minutes remaining, with any chances of another Wolves comeback all-but ended when Mike Williamson saw red late on.