- Newcastle win sixth successive game to close gap on third-placed Arsenal
- Arsenal held to a 0-0 draw by Chelsea, whose top-four hopes are fading
- Tottenham's European bid also falters with 1-0 defeat at 10-man QPR
- QPR move three points clear of the relegation zone with three games to play
The race for England's last two European Champions League places took another twist on Saturday as Newcastle's sixth successive victory left London's three leading clubs battling for qualification.
Arsenal remained third in the Premier League after drawing 0-0 with sixth-placed Chelsea, but now have just a three-point advantage over Newcastle -- who have a game in hand.
Tottenham are a further three points back, one ahead of Chelsea, after crashing 1-0 in a London derby at 10-man Queens Park Rangers -- who moved three clear of the relegation zone.
Newcastle had trailed Spurs by 11 points after a 5-0 thrashing in London in February, but Alan Pardew's team are now hoping to qualify for Europe's top club competition for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
However, the Magpies face a difficult run-in against in-form relegation battlers Wigan, Chelsea, second-placed Manchester City and seventh-placed Everton.
On Saturday Newcastle cruised to a 3-0 win over Stoke as midfielder Yohan Cabaye scored twice and also set up striker Papisse Cisse's 11th goal in 10 league games since signing from Hoffenheim in January.
Tottenham could have joined Newcastle on 62 points, but have now won just three times in 13 matches in all competitions since that February clash.
Adel Taarabt curled in the only goal with a free-kick against his former club, but QPR's Morocco midfielder was sent off late in the match for a second booking after kicking the ball away.
Harry Redknapp's Spurs next face two more teams battling to avoid relegation, Blackburn and Bolton, before playing Aston Villa and Fulham. The manager was the favorite to take over the England role earlier this season, but his hopes of replacing Fabio Capello appear to be dwindling after his injury-hit team's recent downturn.
"We have four games to go and I'm confident we can win four games. It is all to play for. We are fighting for our lives and fighting for Champions League football," Redknapp said.
Arsenal's final three matches are against teams in the bottom half of the table -- Stoke, Norwich and West Brom -- but Chelsea's strong recent form will be tested by an arduous end to the season.
It starts on Tuesday with the second leg of the Champions League semifinal away to Barcelona, then a home derby against QPR, the Newcastle game, two matches against Liverpool (the first of which being the FA Cup final) and finally a visit by Blackburn to Stamford Bridge.
Interim manager Roberto Di Matteo made eight changes from the 1-0 win over Barca, with goalscorer Didier Drogba missing out due to a knee injury.
"We've had so many games, it was a crazy schedule -- it wasn't going to be possible to play the same players in every game," the Italian said.
Third-bottom Blackburn have tested leaders Manchester United and Liverpool in recent weeks and kept alive hopes of staying up with a 2-0 win over Norwich on Saturday.
Wigan could not follow up victories over United and Arsenal, losing 2-1 at Fulham after Philippe Senderos' late winner to be on 34 points alongside QPR.
Bolton dropped to second from bottom despite snatching a 1-1 draw at home to 11th-placed Welsh club Swansea, who are assured of a second season in the top flight.
Aston Villa could still go down after being held to a 0-0 draw at home by 10th-placed Sunderland, whose manager Martin O'Neill made a return to his former club.
The result left Villa five points above the bottom three, but Bolton have a game in hand -- and have played two fewer matches than Wigan, Blackburn and QPR.
Meanwhile, Manchester United will seek to move closer to a 20th league title on Sunday at home to Everton, while City -- five points adrift -- travel to bottom club Wolverhampton.
Liverpool, in eighth, host West Brom.