Billy Sharp’s first hat-trick in 10 years inspired Sheffield United to a 4-2 victory over Wigan Athletic and to the top of the Championship on Saturday.
The 32-year-old striker took his tally to 11 for the season as the Blades and manager Chris Wilder ended the week on a high note having dropped five points in their previous two games.
They hold a two-point advantage over Middlesbrough, who had briefly topped the table after a 1-1 draw with promotion rivals Derby County in Saturday’s early match.
In an extremely tightly-packed division — seven points separate Sheffield United from 12th-placed Blackburn Rovers — Leeds United can regain top spot if they beat Nottingham Forest in the late match.
Norwich City are looming dangerously as they moved third — Emi Buendia’s first goal for the Canaries securing their third successive victory, 1-0 at home to a Brentford side who have lost all three games since Thomas Frank took over as manager.
Norwich’s form is in contrast to that of West Bromwich Albion who have failed to win in three games this week — the latest a 1-1 home draw with Blackburn.
Craig Dawson gave West Brom a first-half lead and hopes of rebounding after their midweek 4-1 drubbing by Derby but Rovers levelled in the second half through a sublime long-range effort by Harrison Reed.
Earlier, Jayden Bogle’s own-goal six minutes from time allowed Middlesbrough to sneak a draw with Derby, who are four points adrift of Sheffield United.
Frank Lampard’s in-form Derby side showed all the enterprise.
They merited going in front in the 19th minute through an own goal by Middlesbrough captain George Friend.
However, they were unable to put away any of their other chances, allowing the hosts back in to share the points.
Lampard accepted their profligacy in front of goal had cost them victory.
“We should have the game in the first half really, we played outstandingly well, the only thing short in our game in the first half was the two or three goals it warranted,” said Lampard.