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An night of seismic shifts in the English Premier League

Manchester City's French midfielder Sami

Manchester City’s French midfielder Samir Nasri (R) celebrates with team-mates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at The Etihad stadium in Manchester, north-west England on March 21, 2012. AFP PHOTO/GLYN KIRK RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ?live? services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

How different the English Premier League table looks this evening following an afternoon of seismic shifts abroad.

Manchester City, the “noisy neighbors,” sliced into Manchester United’s lead in emotional and breathtaking fashion. Chelsea’s second-half lead Wednesday had everyone asking whether City had the stuff, whether the longtime second side of Manchester really had the pluck and belief to be legit title challengers.

Two goals, including one superbly orchestrated by once-forgotten Carlos Tevez, pushed City squarely into the belief zone, as a stirring victory has helped arrange a fantastic league EPL finish. It’s long been a two-horse race; now Roberto Mancini’s side has pulled almost alongside – and it even looks like Tevez will have something to say about things. Now wouldn’t that be a kick in the head, given everything that’s gone on between those two super-sized egos?

Meanwhile, everything is sunshine and lollipops for Arsenal this evening thanks to the kind of win that separates men from boys in a tight title chase. Arsene Wenger’s side – didn’t everyone want to throw that Frenchman right into the Thames just a little while back? – went to Everton and left with three gritty, hard-earned and, if we’re honest, rather un-Arsenal like points. That against a Goodison side in delightful form lately.

Combined with Tottenham’s surprise draw at home to Stoke, Arsenal finds itself sitting pretty. Gunner are back in third place, having leaped Spurs for that coveted Champions League automatic berth. Nothing is final, of course; it’s still March, after all.

But just being there is a mammoth accomplishment around the Emirates. For just a month ago, Arsenal trailed their nearby rival in the first half of their February derby, staring at a potential 13-point gap and all the related baggage: the talk of sackings,the censure, reckonings and remonstrations, rising surely to crescendo status. Instead, Arsenal’s weapons grade comeback set a fierce pace for the next few weeks, over which Arsenal has sealed that gap.

And Chelsea? Just for a little while Wednesday it looked like the Blues would be nipping at Tottenham for fourth spot. But with the loss at the Etihad they’re looking the other way now, watching their backs for Newcastle, just two points back for fifth.

Oh, the date to circle: April 30, a Monday night. Manchester City and Manchester United might well settle things as they clash at the Etihad.