LONDON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - West Ham United produced their most impressive performance of the season to thrash Huddersfield Town 4-1 and continue their rise up the table as the Premier League relegation battle became all the more difficult to call.
With most of the leading clubs idle, and third-placed Chelsea held to a goalless draw by Leicester City, attention switched to the scrap at the bottom with Crystal Palace also winning against Burnley who provided further evidence that their season may be running out of steam.
When David Moyes took over as West Ham manager many observers questioned his ability to get the team scoring again. But the Scot has proved all the doubters wrong with Hammers scoring 12 goals from his last five league games in charge.
A Manuel Lanzini double plus strikes from Mark Noble and Marko Arnautovic gave the visitors a comfortable victory that took them above Huddersfield, for whom Joe Lolley scored and new 14 million pound ($19.2 million) signing Alex Pritchard came on as substitute.
At Selhurst Park, Palace’s revival under Roy Hodgson continued with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Burnley which put them five points above the relegation zone.
Watford fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Southampton, although they benefited from a controversial second goal from Abdoulaye Doucoure.
A seventh Premier League defeat in eight games looked likely for Marco Silva’s side after James Ward-Prowse scored twice but Andre Gray set up a thrilling finale, with Doucoure eventually scoring, although video replays suggested the ball had been handled into the net.
The controversy came days after the video assistant referee (VAR) system was introduced in English football for the first time, although the technology was not available at Vicarage Road. Had it been, Watford’s Troy Deeney admitted the goal might not have stood.
“If VAR comes in, we probably wouldn’t have got it,” he said.
Alan Pardew was another manager breathing easier after West Bromwich Albion beat Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 to record their first win in 21 league games and his first in nine as their manager.
Both Albion goals came via headers from Chris Brunt corners, with Jonny Evans and Craig Dawson rising above Brighton’s defence.
There was less excitement at Chelsea, who recorded their fourth goalless draw in seven games as Leicester hung on despite the 68th-minute dismissal of Ben Chilwell.
Bottom side Swansea City will be disappointed to only come away with a point after Jordan Ayew gave them the lead at Newcastle United, who equalised through substitute Joselu. Swansea are now four points off safety, with fellow strugglers Bournemouth and Stoke City in action on Sunday and Monday.
Tottenham Hotspur host Everton in Saturday’s late game while Liverpool entertain leaders Manchester City in the weekend’s top fixture on Sunday. ($1 = 0.7283 pounds) (Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Christian Radnedge)