Top two surge clear
By Mark Buckingham. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
PORTSMOUTH and Leicester City strengthened their stranglehold on the automatic promotion places with home wins over Grimsby Town and Crystal Palace respectively.
Pompey had won just once in eight games prior to the visit of Grimsby but they had only lost a solitary game in the same period.
Recent signing Yakubu Aiyegbeni marked his full Portsmouth debut by grabbing the opening goal after just four minutes and a Simon Ford own goal on 75 minutes ensured a nerveless finale, with Nigel Quashie putting the icing on the cake in injury-time.
Closest rivals Leicester endured a lengthy wait before finding the back of the net against Crystal Palace, with Paul Dickov's 77th minute goal giving The Foxes a vital three points.
Sheffield United took a ten-match unbeaten run in the First Division to the capital but it was abruptly ended by Millwall.
Paul Ifill's stunning 63rd minute strike separated the teams as The Lions enhanced their prospects of sneaking into the play-offs.
Nottingham Forest had not won away from home since early October but cemented their play-off spot with a last-gasp victory at Wimbledon.
Marlon Harewood broke the deadlock on 29 minutes and three minutes later he scored again for his tenth of the season.
Wayne Gray hauled the hosts back in the match on 59 minutes and four minutes later, they were level through Damien Francis but in the final minute, the prolific David Johnson snared the points for Forest.
Norwich City were set to heap further away-day misery on struggling Stoke City after taking a two-goal lead at Carrow Road.
Iwan Roberts ended his goal drought with the opener on two minutes and defender Malky Mackay's fifth of the campaign put The Canaries in the driving seat.
Brynjar Gunnarsson gave Stoke a glimmer of hope on 63 minutes and the visitors poached an equaliser with two minutes remaining via Lee Mills' superb goal, although they have still gone ten away games without a win.
Coventry City slipped out of the play-off zone after crashing to defeat at home to promotion rivals Watford.
Yousseff Chippo was sent off for a second bookable offence early in the second half, and then Micah Hyde grabbed the visitors' winner on the hour mark.
Steve Sidwell's first goal for Reading on 37 minutes set The Royals on their way at Burnley with John Salako bagging only his second of the campaign on the stroke of half-time.
The veteran winger nabbed another goal on 52 minutes to seemingly put the match beyond Burnley's reach but Ian Moore reduced the arrears three minutes later to hand the hosts a lifeline.
Sidwell, though, extinguished any lingering hopes of a stirring comeback with his second of the game on 79 minutes and Darius Henderson made it five in the final minute but there was still time for Dean West to net for Burnley.
Adam Proudlock returned to Hillsborough to devastating effect as Wolves boosted their play-off aspirations with three points against Sheffield Wednesday.
Proudlock enjoyed a loan spell with The Owls only a month ago but scored after 24 and 42 minutes - his first Wolves goals this season - with Kenny Miller and Dean Sturridge completing the rout in the second period.
Rotherham's play-off ambitions took a knock at Pride Park as Derby County ran out convincing winners against their ten-man visitors.
Millers goalkeeper Michael Pollitt was sent off on 16 minutes for deliberate handball and from the resulting free-kick Georgi Kinkladze put The Rams ahead.
Adam Bolder's first goal since early September extended the lead just before the interval and teenage striker Izale McLeod celebrated signing his first professional contract with the third goal on 49 minutes.
Preston ended a six-game winless streak with a comfortable triumph at home to Gillingham which was started courtesy of Eddie Lewis' 29th minute effort.
Graham Alexander's 38th penalty improved under-fire manager Craig Brown's mood and Barry Ashby's own goal on 55 minutes cheered up the former Scotland coach even further and crushed the Gills' nine-match unbeaten run.
Bradford City inched further away from the relegation zone with a narrow success at home to ten-man Ipswich Town.
The visitors had Hermann Hreidarsson dismissed for violent conduct in the early stages of the second half and then Claus Jorgensen netted in his fifth consecutive league appearance on 62 minutes.
Teenage forward Danny Forrest enjoyed his league debut as he put the game to bed on 68 minutes.
Walsall also lifted their survival hopes with a home win over Brighton, courtesy of Jorge Leitao's tenth goal of the season after seven minutes.
Click below for an individual match summary:
Bradford 2-0 Ipswich
Burnley 2-5 Reading
Coventry 0-1 Watford
Derby 3-0 Rotherham
Leicester City 1-0 Crystal Palace
Millwall 1-0 Sheffield United
Norwich 2-2 Stoke
Porstmouth 3-0 Grimsby Town
Preston 3-0 Gillingham
Sheffield Wednesday 0-4 Wolves
Walsall 1-0 Brighton
Wimbledon 2-3 Nottingham Forest