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Championship Focus: Newcastle’s lead grows to 5 points

Newcastle United v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 20: Newcastle player Yoan Gouffran celebrates after scoring the opening goal for Newcastle during the Sky Bet Championship match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St James’ Park on February 20, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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With promotion-chasing Championship sides down to 11 (0r 12) games remaining during the league season, one side is nearly (back) up, while their closest competition for the title falters badly.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

Huddersfield Town 1-3 Newcastle United

After overthrowing then-leaders Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday, Newcastle’s focus shifted to opening up an 11-point lead on third-place Huddersfield — a margin leaving them miles clear in one of two automatic promotion places — and they did just that, thanks to Matt Ritchie (9th league goal of the season), Daryl Murphy and Dwight Gayle (21st of the season — second-most in the Championship). Huddersfield, meanwhile, sit just two point clear of slipping all the way to fifth, though they do so with a game in hand.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview ]

Nottingham Forest 3-0 Brighton

For nearly 60 minutes, Brighton were arguably the better side away to Forest. The home side hadn’t even registered a shot on target until Zach Clough broke the deadlock on the hour mark. In fact, they would register just three shots on target over the course of 90 minutes, ruthlessly punishing Brighton for three goals in the process. Ben Osborn made it 2-0 in the 89th minute, and Clough completed the rout seven minutes into stoppage time. Despite the heavy defeat, Brighton still sit six points clear of Huddersfield in the race for the second and final automatic promotion spot.

[ MORE: Three things — Liverpool’s victory over Arsenal ]

Birmingham City 1-3 Leeds United

Coming on strong, at just the right time, are Leeds United. Friday’s triumph away to Birmingham pushes Garry Monk’s side to within a point of Huddersfield for third, now and points clear of Fulham in the race for a top-six (playoff) place. Chris Wood thwarted Gayle’s bid to overtake him atop the goalscoring charts with a brace, in the 14th and 67th minutes, before Alfonso completed the scoring. That’s three wins in four league games for Leeds, who would all but clinch a playoff place for themselves with a victory over Fulham on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in the Championship

(5th) Reading 2-1 (21st) Wolverhampton Wanderers
(6th) Sheffield Wednesday 5-1 (8th) Norwich City
(7th) Fulham 3-1 (9th) Preston North End
(10th) Derby Count 2-1 (11th) Barnsley

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]