Championship Review: Fulham end Villa run, Cardiff pounce
Aston Villa's automatic promotion hopes suffered a setback as a 2-0 defeat at Fulham left them outside the Championship's top two on Saturday.
Ryan Sessegnon continued his fine scoring form to help snap the Villans' seven-game winning streak in the league, opening the door to Cardiff City to move above Steve Bruce's men.
And the Bluebirds made the opportunity count with a slim 1-0 home win over Middlesbrough.
League leaders Wolves, meanwhile, were still able to increase their lead at the top despite being held to a 1-1 draw by the frustrating resilience of Preston North End.
SESSEGNON STARS TO SNAP VILLA STREAK
Fulham dented Villa's automatic promotion chances and enhanced their own with a hard-earned three points at Craven Cottage.
Talented teenager Sessegnon made the breakthrough shortly after the interval - his 12th of the campaign - before Floyd Ayite punished Sam Johnstone's poor clearance to seal the win.
7 - Ryan Sessegnon has scored seven league goals so far in 2018 - only Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (9) has netted more in England's top four tiers. Flourishing. pic.twitter.com/RX1f5dG6qe-- OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 17, 2018
Slavisa Jokanovic's side are now four points behind Villa and six shy of Cardiff, who edged out Middlesbrough.
Sean Morrison headed the only goal on 33 minutes to make it three wins in four for Neil Warnock's men.
WOLVES HELD AFTER SENDING OFF
Wolves extended their lead at the summit to 11 points despite being forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at plucky 10-man Preston.
Alan Browne headed in a corner to give the Lilywhites a surprise second-half lead at Deepdale, but their good work came undone on the hour.
John Welsh was dismissed for a second yellow card and that opened the door for the visitors to equalise almost immediately through Helder Costa.
Preston held on to see out a draw that puts them two points behind sixth-placed Bristol City, who visit Leeds United on Sunday.
SUNDERLAND SLIP TO JOINT-BOTTOM
Sunderland are now level on points with bottom-placed Burton Albion after Brentford ended a three-match winless run with a 2-0 victory at the Stadium of Light.
Kamohelo Mokotjo and Neal Maupay both scored first-half goals to consign Chris Coleman's side to back-to-back home defeats.
"We have got three days to turn another negative into something positive"-- Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) February 17, 2018
Chris Coleman cut a frustrated figure at full time but admitted his players must move on quickly ahead of Tuesday's trip to @OfficialBWFC
Burton, meanwhile, missed a chance to leapfrog the Black Cats as they drew 0-0 at home to Nottingham Forest.
Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers both remain two points above the relegation zone following defeats to Millwall and Queens Park Rangers respectively.