(CNN) -- Manchester City took a crucial step towards winning the English Premier League title after coming from behind to beat Everton, move top of the table and pile the pressure on to their championship rivals.
An early Ross Barkley wonder goal had given Everton the lead at Goodison Park before Sergio Aguero leveled. Bosnia international Edin Dzeko scored twice alowing City to take control of the match before Romelu Lukaku's goal ensured a tense end to the second half.
After Liverpool's capitulation against Chelsea last week, City knew they had to win to keep the destination of the title in their own hands.
Both Chelsea and Liverpool had hoped that Everton could do them a favor by taking points from City, and the signs were good when Barkley's early strike gave the home side a first half lead.
But City came back strongly and, despite a late Everton rally, held on to victory.
At the full time whistle the City players collapsed on the pitch, perhaps knowing that the toughest test of their title race was behind them.
With two games to go just two points separate Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool. But City's vastly superior goal difference means that if they win their last two games they will secure the Premier League title.
"That's what we wanted ultimately," City captain Vincent Kompany said after the game.
"If we hopefully play like we can we have goals from all over the pitch so that will make the difference."
Earlier in the day, Cardiff City and Fulham tasted the pain and ignominy of Premier League relegation after both teams lost crucial matches.
Meanwhile Sunderland, who spent most of the season rooted to the bottom of the table, all but secured survival by improbably defeating Manchester United at Old Trafford.
It was an afternoon of high drama across England as promotion and relegation places were being decided in all four professional divisions in warm spring sunshine.
But the highest stakes were at play in the Premier League.
This was Cardiff City's first ever season in the Premier League, a season that has been defined by defeat, fan unrest and boardroom chaos. Former coach Malky Mackay was controversially fired mid-way through the season by the club's billionaire Malaysian owner Vincent Tan, much to the fans' unhappiness.
Mackay's replacement, former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, could not spark a renaissance as his team fell into the relegation zone for the majority of the rest of the season.
Cardiff traveled to Newcastle United, another club engulfed by boardroom and personnel chaos, needing victory. Instead Shola Ameobi, Loic Remy and Stephen Taylor all scored to secure a 3-0 victory for Newcastle and see Cardiff limp back into the Championship, English football's second tier.
Fulham, owned by US billionaire Shahid Kahn, headed the same direction after a 4-1 capitulation against Stoke City. Despite a late season revival led by new coach Felix Magath -- Fulham's third of the season -- there was little fight from the West London team as Stoke pushed Fulham towards relegation.
Yet both teams were condemned by an unlikely result at Old Trafford. Sunderland, like Fulham and Cardiff, had changed managerial personnel mid-season as Paolo Di Canio was removed and replaced by former Uruguay international Gus Poyet.
A late season Sunderland revival led by young striker Connor Wickham -- once tipped at as a future England international who had instead been farmed out on loan -- had raised the unlikely prospect of survival.
And a goal midway through the first half by Swedish international Sebastian Larsson was enough to secure a stunning victory for the Black Cats.
The only team that can now catch Sunderland is Norwich City, who play league title chasing Chelsea Sunday. Defeat would all but ensure Sunderland's Premier League safety.