LONDON, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Gary McSheffrey extended Birmingham City's lead at the top of the second division with a hat-trick in their 3-1 win over Preston North End on Saturday.
He put his side two goals to the good as the match headed for halftime, Brett Ormerod pulled one back for Preston but McSheffrey completed his hat-trick with a late penalty.
Victory moved Steve Bruce's side on to 43 points, ahead of Derby County on 40, Cardiff City on 39 and Preston, who had started the day in second place, on 38.
Derby County beat struggling Leeds United 1-0 at Elland Road, with Giles Barnes scoring after nine minutes, while Cardiff were held 2-2 at home by Ipswich Town.
Darren Purse gave Cardiff a 1-0 lead after only three minutes, but Jon Macken levelled three minutes into the second half. Two hotly-disputed penalties, the first converted by Purse and the second by Macken, kept it all square.
Stoke City are fifth on 37 points after defender Danny Higginbotham converted an early penalty for a 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers, with Southampton sixth on 36 after losing 2-1 at Southend.