Saints back top as Hammers are held
Southampton returned to the top of the Championship on Saturday, after West Ham United were held to a draw at home as both Reading and Blackpool enhanced their promotion prospects.
West Ham failed to build a cushion at the top of the Championship on Saturday, as they were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Crystal Palace in the day's early kick-off.
Palace enjoyed far the better of the first half but were unable to find a goal, with man of the match Rob Green - back in the team after a successful appeal against his midweek red card - making a number of saves from the lively Wilfried Zaha and Chris Martin.
In the second half the Hammers grew into the match and looked the dominant force, but they were unable to break the deadlock despite a number of decent openings as the game drew to a close.
That meant Sam Allardyce's side could only extend their lead at the top of the table to two points - paving the way for Southampton to return to the summit after they beat Watford 3-0 at Vicarage Road hours later.
The Saints once again had prolific striker Richie Lambert to thank for their victory, as he grabbed a hat-trick.
The forward struck twice in the first half before sealing his treble with a second-half penalty, taking his tally to 19 league goals, as Saints extended their unbeaten run to six games.
Birmingham succumbed 2-1 at home to Nottingham Forest to lose ground on the top two, dropping down to fifth in the process.
Dexter Blackstock struck twice for Forest, as he scored either side of Chris Burke's 55th-minute equaliser to ease the side's relegation concerns slightly.
That meant they fell behind Reading, as goals in either half from Noel Hunt and Ian Harte earned the Royals their fifth successive league victory with a 2-0 triumph over Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
Republic of Ireland striker Hunt converted from close range in the 17th minute after a well-worked corner before Harte killed off the game with a brilliant free-kick 10 minutes from time.
The impressive result completed a successful week for the club, who tied manager Brian McDermott to a new contract despite interest from Premier League side Wolves.
Two late goals gave Blackpool a third straight away win and moved Ian Holloway's side into the play-off places, as they beat Bristol City 3-1.
Thomas Ince, with his second goal of the game, and Kevin Phillips struck in the 84th and 87th minutes to lift the Seasiders from seventh up to fourth in the table.
Jon Stead gave Bristol City a 29th-minute lead but Ince levelled things up 10 minutes into the second half. The result extended the Robins' winless run to six league matches and saw them fall a place to 21st in the table, just three points above the relegation zone.
Ashley Barnes bagged a brace as Brighton extended their unbeaten run to nine matches with a 3-0 victory over Ipswich.
The Seagulls were not at their best against the Tractor Boys but Craig Mackail-Smith's first-half strike and a double from Barnes after the interval wrapped up a comfortable victory.
Brighton have not been defeated in the league since December 31 and they moved up to seventh, level on points with Cardiff, who occupy the final play-off place but are in Carling Cup final action this weekend.
Elsewhere, Neil Warnock's first game in charge of Leeds ended in frustration as Portsmouth turned in a battling 0-0 display in a bid to stave off relegation.
Warnock saw his latest side snatch a last-gasp win from the stands at Elland Road last week, but will be disappointed Leeds failed to convert one of several chances.
Record signing Tyrone Barnett marked his Peterborough debut with a last-gasp equaliser in a 1-1 draw to keep Doncaster rooted to the bottom of the table.
Giles Barnes' first goal for more than two years looked to have lifted Dean Saunders' side off the foot of the table.
But £1.1 million Posh new boy Barnett stooped to head home a cross from defender Ryan Bennett, making his last appearance before joining Norwich, to salvage a point for Darren Ferguson's side.
Millwall enjoyed a 3-1 away win against Burnley, with Tottenham loanee Harry Kane getting one of the goals for the visitors.
Kane scored the last of the Lions' three goals, after Andy Keogh and Josh Wright had given the visitors a comfortable cushion. Jay Rodriguez then got an injury time consolation for Eddie Howe's side.
Finally, Clive Platt left it late to seal a 1-0 victory over Barnsley and grab three vital points in Coventry's quest to retain their Championship status.
In what was largely a dire display of football, the Tykes defence succumbed to a late sucker punch as the tireless Gary McSheffrey picked out Platt to score his first goal in 46 appearances for the Sky Blues.