Dirk Kuyt collected a hat-trick of poacher’s goals as Liverpool served up a scintillating performance against Manchester United to blow open the title race.

Kuyt – taking time out from filming the latest instalment of the Ice Age film franchise– was on hand to tap in the opener after Luis Suarez’s brilliant run, before Suarez combined with Nani (what vision) to lay a second on a plate. Dirk Kuyt in the new Liverpool Away Kit 2010 - 2011

He completed his treble after Suarez’s free-kick was parried back into play by Edwin van der Sar. Javier Hernandez’s late, late consolation barely even registered.

The result will have improved the mood of a disgusted Arsene Wenger, who the day before had watched his side labour to a goalless draw against previously out-of-sorts Sunderland. A dodgy offside decision against Andrei Arshavin and the non-award of a penalty after Bambi on Ice Bramble tugged down the same player summed up Arsenal’s day.

At Craven Cottage Fulham beat Blackburn 3-2, with Mark Clattenburg hammered for awarding a late penalty that was a penalty; Steve Kean’s protests that, ‘if you’re going to give that, there will be nine or ten penalties a game,’ don’t really hold water.

When you wrestle a player to the ground on any other part of the pitch it’s a free-kick; for some reason if it occurs in the penalty area, people think the rules should be different. (That Clattenburg might have been making amends for not awarding a penalty seconds earlier is another matter.)

In the Midlands, the phrase ‘cup hangover’ was being thrown around as a reason for West Brom’s 3- 1 triumph at St. Andrews. Alternatively, Roy Hodgson’s men just played better than Birmingham and ran out deserved winners, James Morrison adding to his personal collection of classy strikes in the process.

Another side with a cup hangover – Aston Villa – somehow contrived to lose 3-2 at Bolton after twice leading and missing a penalty. Gerard Houllier’s decision to go out of the FA Cup looks even dafter now.

West Ham climbed out of the bottom three for the first time in ages thanks to a comprehensive 3-0 win over Stoke. Demba Ba scored against the club he nearly joined, Manuel da Costa powered in a far-post header and Thomas Hitzlsperger reminded everyone of how he got his nickname.

Wolves showed that they are still up for the fight, too – twice coming from behind to snatch a late point in the 3-3 draw with Tottenham, for whom Jermain Defoe scored twice to take his tally of league goals for the season to two.

Wigan should have earned a similar return from a spirited display at Manchester City, but an end-of- season bloopers DVD will no doubt be showing why they didn’t. Roberto Martinez’s side squandered gilt-edged chances either side of David Silva’s gift-wrapped winner.

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