Manchester United moved three points clear at the top of the Premiership after beating Newcastle 6-2 in the top the table clash at St. James’ Park.

A hat-trick from Paul Scholes and goals from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ryan Giggs and a Ruud Van Nistelrooy penalty secured an emphatic victory, after Jermaine Jenas had put Newcastle ahead.

Manager Alex Ferguson said: “We played very well and created some good openings. It was a matter of being patient and when we got back into the game we played some fantastic football.”

The result means Newcastle are effectively out of the title race and it seems United’s game against Arsenal on Wednesday night is potentially a title decider.

Elsewhere, Chelsea moved within a point of Newcastle in third place after a 1-0 win against strugglers Bolton. Nineteen year old Carlton Cole scored the only goal on his first Premiership start of the season.

At the bottom of the table, a 2-0 defeat at Birmingham was enough to confirm Sunderland’s inevitable relegation from the top flight.

Manager Mick McCarthy admitted he had not lost hope of staying up, but is now looking forward to next season.

“Up until this weekend, we’ve always had to have in the back of our minds what might happen if we did manage to stay up.

“But now everything can start in terms of next season. We can really start now with our plans and be a bit more open about it.”

Sunderland still need six more points to beat Watford’s record of fewest points gained in a single season, which currently stands at 24. West Brom look certain to join them in division one next season after losing 2-1 at home to Everton, while Liverpool remain in touch with their Merseyside rivals after winning 2-0 against Fulham.

In the FA Cup, Arsenal will play Southampton in the final after both sides defeated Sheffield United and Watford respectively in the semi-finals.