LONDON Leicester City's unlikely assault on a first Premier League title gathered momentum with a ruthless 3-1 demolition of Manchester City helping them storm five points clear at the top on Saturday.
Defender Robert Huth scored twice and Algerian magician Riyad Mahrez fired his 14th league goal of the season as Leicester sent a clear message of intent to those who still doubt they have the quality to become champions.
Bookmakers have now made Claudio Ranieri's men, 5,000-1 outsiders at the start of the campaign, favourites to go all the way.
Tottenham Hotspur moved above Manchester City into second place, Kieran Trippier scoring in a 1-0 win over Watford at White Hart Lane.
Leicester have 53 points from 25 games. Spurs are on 48, one ahead of Manchester City. Fourth-placed Arsenal, who visit Bournemouth on Sunday, have 45.
Elsewhere, Newcastle United clawed their way out of the relegation zone after Aleksandar Mitrovic netted in a 1-0 home victory over West Bromwich Albion.
Norwich City dropped into the bottom three after a 2-0 defeat at basement club Aston Villa while Sunderland, in 19th place, scored twice in the final eight minutes to draw 2-2 at Liverpool.
Ranieri's Leicester face Arsenal at the Emirates next weekend and the Italian said all the pressure was now on the league's big guns in this most unpredictable of seasons.
"We have to try in this crazy league but there are some big teams who have to win," he told reporters.
"The spirit is fantastic but I’ve said this from my first moment here in Leicester."
TOO HOT TO HANDLE
Leicester's energy and attacking verve proved too hot for City to handle at the Etihad Stadium, the hosts perhaps still digesting the news that Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola would be replacing Manuel Pellegrini as manager next season.
Poor marking allowed Huth to convert Mahrez's free kick after three minutes to rock the home team who struggled to respond in rain-lashed Manchester.
Mahrez then showed why he, along with team mate Jamie Vardy, should be a leading contender for Player of the Year honours when he doubled Leicester's lead following a swift break, taking N'Golo Kante's pass to advance and fire the ball past Joe Hart.
Huth's header from a corner on the hour made it 3-0, ensuring Sergio Aguero's late reply proved of no consequence.
Pellegrini made no excuses for Manchester City's chastening defeat.
"A lot of things went wrong. We played against a very good team," the Chilean said. "It’s fair to give them the merit they have."
Like Leicester fans, followers of Spurs will dare to dream that their side can finally land a first top-flight title since 1961.
Full back Trippier, set up by substitute Dele Alli, scored his first goal for the club after 64 minutes to extend Spurs' winning run to six games in all competitions.
"We need to be calm. We are in a very good position in the league but the philosophy from the beginning of the season has been to go step by step," said manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Sunderland staged the comeback of the day at Anfield where thousands of Liverpool fans walked out in the 77th minute in protest against rising ticket prices, the timing symbolic with the club intending to charge a top price of 77 pounds ($111.65)next season.
Liverpool, with goals from Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana, were 2-0 up when many of the home fans left and they at least missed their side's capitulation as efforts by Adam Johnson and Jermain Defoe, a minute from time, earned Sunderland a point.
Anfield boss Juergen Klopp missed the game after suffering suspected appendicitis.
Everton struck three times in the first half on the way to a comfortable 3-0 victory at Stoke City while Southampton beat West Ham United 1-0 despite having Victor Wanyama sent off in the 54th minute.
($1 = 0.6897 pounds)
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)
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Updated Date: Feb 06, 2016 18:40 PM