LIVERPOOL, England — Manchester City hurdled its last, big obstacle en route to the English Premier League title by winning 3-2 at Everton, while heavy defeats condemned Fulham and Cardiff to relegation on Saturday.
Two home wins, against Aston Villa on Wednesday and West Ham on Sunday, separate City from a second championship in three years after coming from behind to win at Goodison Park — a stadium where it has traditionally struggled with just one victory from its last 15 visits.
All three teams have two games left, with Chelsea playing Norwich on Sunday and Liverpool at Crystal Palace on Monday.
"Three points is a huge step for us," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "It’s a decisive moment, but we haven’t finished yet."
Everton’s defeat dealt a major blow to the title hopes of neighbour Liverpool, and ensured Arsenal clinched fourth spot and Champions League qualification for the 17th straight season.
Resurgent Sunderland’s surprise 1-0 win at Manchester United pulled the team three points clear of third-from-bottom Norwich, gave interim United manager Ryan Giggs a reality check, and also consigned Fulham and Cardiff to the second tier.
Fulham lost 4-1 at Stoke, and Cardiff was defeated 3-0 at Newcastle, leaving both sides unable to climb out of the relegation zone.
"I have to apologize for not managing the situation. The club asked me to come — I tried," said Fulham manager Felix Magath, who was hired in February in an attempt to keep the club in the top division for a 14th straight season. "You can never say any player would like to see relegation, but they didn’t fight enough, especially today."
Cardiff goes down after spending just one year in the Premier League, having also changed managers midway through the season in a bid to prevent the drop.
"I knew what I was coming into," Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said. "I didn’t make the impact I hoped for and I believed in."
Sunderland has taken seven points from trips to Man City, Chelsea and United in the past three weeks, with Sebastian Larsson’s 30th-minute goal clinching victory at Old Trafford.
United turned in a performance reminiscent of David Moyes’ woeful 10-month tenure that was brought to an end last month, puncturing the optimism created by the team’s 4-0 win over Norwich last Saturday in Giggs’ first match in interim control.
"I feel flat," Giggs said. "The players were flat and I don’t know why. . We were putting five- or 10-yard passes astray and if you do that in the Premier League you get punished. We’ve had a problem at home all season — it’s not been good enough."
Already out of contention to qualify for the Champions League, United is also struggling to make the Europa League as it is six points behind sixth-place Tottenham, which lost 2-0 at West Ham.
Spurs went down to 10 men in the 25th minute when Younes Kaboul was given a straight red card for a professional foul, before an own goal by Harry Kane and Stewart Downing’s free kick secured a victory that preserved West Ham’s Premier League status for another season.
Aston Villa moved six points clear of Norwich after beating Hull 3-1 thanks to Ashley Westwood’s goal after 58 seconds and a pair of headers from Andreas Weimann just before halftime.
Hull, a point behind Villa, was also unlikely to be hauled in by Norwich but its three-game winless run bodes ill for the FA Cup final against Arsenal on May 17. Regardless of that result, however, Hull will get the Europa League spot offered by the FA Cup courtesy of Arsenal securing fourth place in the league.