Sky Sports takes a look at some of the talking points from the weekend's Premier League action
Last Updated: December 16, 2012 8:26pm
For individual match reports, statistics, player ratings and key moments from each game, click on the headers below.
While Roberto Mancini will obviously have been pleased with the win at St James' Park, you have to wonder if the feeling was tinged with regret.
His front four of Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, David Silva and Carlos Tevez produced some breathtaking football at times, particularly in the first half.
And the fact no-one was surprised said a lot.
As much as Mancini is to be admired for his patience, it's becoming increasingly apparent he can't solve a problem like Mario. As they showed again here, City look a more effective outfit going forward without Balotelli - and if Mancini hasn't realised it yet, you have to wonder when he will.
A much-improved second-half performance gave Alan Pardew some positives to build on, but a midfield trio of James Perch, Vurnon Anita and Cheick Tiote was sadly lacking in creativity and tempo. Without Hatem Ben Arfa, there was no spark and there was no imagination behind the Magpies' first-half approach to creating chances, which appeared to consist of Anita pumping a diagonal free-kick into the box for Mike Williamson to knock down.
There is also still the conundrum of how to best fit Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba into the same team amid continued reports of a rift between the Senegal duo. Ba is at least contributing goals, even from a wide position, but an injury to Ben Arfa is unlikely to see Pardew change his system before the New Year.
Christian Benteke was the undoubted star of the show for Aston Villa in their shock 3-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield, but the worry for Villa fans will be whether they can keep hold of him if any of the big boys come calling in January.
The Belgian international was a real handful for the Liverpool defence and they could not cope with his pace and power as he scored twice and created the other for Andreas Weimann.
The summer signing's performance is sure to alert the Premier League's big guns with Benteke's displays this season already showing he could be a star of the future.
Villa have lost a number of top stars over the last couple of seasons and Villa fans will be keen to keep hold of Benteke as they look to build a side around the towering frontman.
For Liverpool it was a disappointing display which will again raise question marks over what they can actually achieve this season.
Going into the game Liverpool had just won back-to-back Premier League games for the first time under Brendan Rodgers, but the manner of the defeat, and especially their defending against Villa, will be a worry for Rodgers and it could force the Reds boss to not just look up front for reinforcements for his squad when the January transfer window reopens.
There were plenty of plusses for boss Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United followed up last weekend's derby victory over title rivals Manchester City and made it five league wins on the bounce.
Dutch goal machine Robin van Persie scored again - his fourth league game on the bounce to take his total to 15 for the Red Devils since his summer switch from Arsenal. He also provided the assist to Wayne Rooney, who has now rediscovered his scoring boots to make it five goals from his last three league games.
And Tom Cleverley also scored from the first time since October as United showed they can get goals from all areas of the field.
At the back, club captain Nemanja Vidic provided another boost as he returned as a second-half substitute for his first appearance since September, although United were unable to keep a clean sheet.
For Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill, there were both plusses and minuses from this game.
He will not be happy with how his side were carved open far too easily to find themselves two goals down within 20 minutes to leave themselves with a mountain to climb.
But at the least the Black Cats then made a fight of it, with several half-chances in the first half and Fraizer Campbell's consolation and other opportunities towards the end.
But, worryingly, top-scorer Steven Fletcher appeared to suffer a first-half injury before being replaced at the break. And O'Neill will be acutely aware the Black Cats are now just a point above the drop zone and there is no room for complacency as the battle to beat the drop hots up.
What a job Chris Hughton is doing at Carrow Road. The former Birmingham boss has masterminded an incredible run of form which has now seen the Canaries go ten Premier League games unbeaten, which looked unthinkable after looking every inch relegation fodder in their last defeat, to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge all the way back in October.
Hughton's signings have been as impressive as his record so far. Alexander Tettey has added quality to the midfield, Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner have strengthened the backline, Steven Whittaker looks assured at full-back and Robert Snodgrass has proved he can cut it in the Premier League, and all continued their fine form on Saturday.
Wigan on the other hand have been struggling of late, as they often do at this stage of the season, but with an injury list the size of theirs, you can forgive them for looking a little disjointed.
With skipper Gary Caldwell, Ivan Ramis and Antolin Alcaraz missing at the heart of defence, Roberto Martinez has had to shuffle the pack in recent games, and looked all at sea on occasions on Saturday, and but for the athleticism of Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi, the Canaries would have won by a greater margin.
However with a squad the size of the Spaniard's, it is a miracle that they are not further in the relegation mire.Shaun Maloney must be pushing for a starting berth after his wonder-strike early in the second half at Carrow Road. He gave Wigan the added impetus they needed to get at a resolute Canaries rearguard, and helped provide much needed service to Arouna Kone and Mauro Boselli.
It would still be a record-breaking miracle if Queens Park Rangers escape relegation but keeping Adel Taarabt sweet and trying to convince the Morocco international to miss the Africa Cup of Nations is their main hope. That is no secret but the playmaker ran Fulham ragged, with his second goal coming as a fine solo effort, to underline the point.
However, possibly of equal importance is the form and fitness of Alejandro Faurlin. The midfielder made his first start since Harry Redknapp's arrival and ran the centre of the pitch in the second half, setting up Taarabt for his opening goal. If the Argentine can continue to produce those performances, QPR will at least have some creativity to address their shortcomings in front of goal, which has seen them score just 15 times this season.
Fulham boss Martin Jol looked a furious and nervous figure on the touchline throughout the game and will know the win over Newcastle United is on paper only a blip in a run of one win in nine Premier League matches.
Dimitar Berbatov, for all his fancy flicks and passes, has not scored in more than a month. Jol is devastated by Bryan Ruiz's injury and Fulham are badly missing one of their main men. They need another striker in the January transfer window.
The tactic of playing Chris Baird in midfield also backfired against QPR, as the defender by trade suffered a miserable afternoon in giving the ball away and being outclassed by Taarabt.
One incident overshadowed this contest at the Britannia Stadium and that was Marouane Fellaini's headbutt on Ryan Shawcross in the second half.
Sadly for the Belgium International, the incident summed up his afternoon after being frustrated time and time again by the central-defensive partnership of Shawcross and Robert Huth who were imperious yet again.
Fellaini could now face an FA ban and manager David Moyes admitted after the match that he would accept any punishment given to him.
It was no surprise that this game ended in stalemate though as Everton had drawn eight of their last 12 Premier League away games and four of the last five heading into this while Stoke were unbeaten in their last 14 at home.
Things started well for the Toffees who went ahead thanks to Shawcross' own goal. But their first-half dominance should have been rewarded by a second, which failed to materialise.
Tony Pulis must have given his troops a real ear bashing at the break because they came out a different team in the second half and, roared on by their fanatical supporters, they hit back with a goal made in the Potteries.
Shawcross' punt into the box was superbly directed past Tim Howard by Kenwyne Jones and after that both sides shut up shop.
For Tottenham, this was a win that will have delighted Andre Villas-Boas against an in-form Swansea side that really forced Spurs to dig deep in search of the three points.
The fact that Ashley Williams stole the show with one of the defensive performances of the season says volumes about how intensely Spurs had to push for a winner, and the relief around White Hart Lane was evident when Jan Vertonghen grabbed his first ever Premier League goal.
Swansea were defensively immense throughout, and while Spurs fashioned numerous chances, the sterling work of Williams, Chico Flores and Gerhard Tremmel ensured the deadlock wasn't broken until the 75th minute.
When it did come, it was a simple lapse in concentration from the Swans, as Vertonghen stepped up from Kyle Walker's free-kick to register the only goal of the game with a neat finish on the half-volley.
Tottenham move into fourth place in the Premier League with the victory, but Swansea fans will certainly take the positives from a tremendous performance while Spurs fans will be looking higher up the table now in their bid for Champions League football next season.
West Brom may have ended a three-match losing sequence against West Ham, but they have now gone three games without a goal.
Steve Clarke must find an answer to those deficiencies in the final third if the Baggies are to get what remains a productive campaign to date back on track, with the busy festive period no time to be hitting a slump.
West Ham, meanwhile, will be hoping that a crowded treatment room soon begins to clear, with Sam Allardyce naming just six substitutes at The Hawthorns.
Offering youngsters a taste of Premier League life is no bad thing, but the Hammers would prefer to spend their first season back in the big time packing their squad with proven performers - with there a time and a place for blooding the stars of the future, and this is not necessarily it.
Issues then for the Baggies and Hammers to address, with both still looking upwards but aware that an untimely stumble into the New Year could leave them glancing over their shoulder at the start of 2013.