Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second hat-trick in three Premier League games to boost Manchester United’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League at the expense of relegation-threatened Norwich at Old Trafford.
Knowing victory would take them within three points of the top four, Ronaldo appeared to have put United in control when he scored twice in the opening 32 minutes.
However, appalling defending from the hosts either side of the interval allowed Norwich to equalise through Kieran Dowell and Teemu Pukki and for a while Dean Smith’s side looked the more likely winners.
But after Ralf Rangnick had abandoned his bold tactic of playing without a recognised ball-winner in midfield and replaced Paul Pogba with Juan Mata, Ronaldo drove a free-kick home off the inside of a post 14 minutes from time to secure victory.
The 37-year-old is now on 15 Premier League goals for the season, trailing only Mo Salah and Son Hueng-min in the standings. He has also moved on to 99 career Premier League goals.
At St Mary’s, Arsenal missed the chance to move level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham as Southampton inflicted a third successive defeat on Mikel Arteta’s team.
Jan Bednarek scored the game’s only goal late in the first half after the Gunners had failed to adequately deal with a Saints corner.
Southampton, meanwhile, climb to 12th after claiming their first league win since February.
Brighton halted Tottenham’s charge towards a place in next season’s Champions League as Leandro Trossard struck in the 90th minute to secure a 1-0 win for the visitors.
Spurs’ lead over Arsenal in the battle for fourth place in the Premier League remains three points, but the Gunners now have two games in hand.
Antonio Conte’s men had won four consecutive games, starting with a 2-0 win at Brighton last month, to turn around the Italian’s rollercoaster first season in charge.
At the Vicarage Road, Pontus Jansson’s last-minute header broke Watford’s hearts and gave Brentford a third successive Premier League win for the first time.
The result leaves Watford in 19th, six points adrift of safety having played two more games than Everton.