Luis Suarez celebrated his new contract by sending Liverpool to the top of the Premier League thanks to two goals and another virtuoso display in a 3-1 home win over crisis club Cardiff City on Saturday.
Manchester City moved up to second despite a bizarre Vincent Kompany own goal in a 4-2 victory at lowly Fulham while champions Manchester United, in seventh, overcame West Ham United 3-1 through Danny Welbeck, Adnan Januzaj and Ashley Young.
The irrepressible Suarez, who looked to be heading out of Anfield in the close season following a ban for biting an opponent, expertly volleyed in the opener before setting up Raheem Sterling for the second after a superb ball from the resurgent Jordan Henderson.
It was soon 3-0 as the 26-year-old Suarez netted his 19th league goal of the season on the stroke of halftime with a superb curling shot from the edge of the box following more Henderson magic with a back-heel.
Manchester City (35 points) moved above Arsenal on goal difference after a patchy performance that underlined their problems away from home this season.
Another Yaya Toure free kick on 23 minutes and Kompany's goal at the right end of the field put City 2-0 up at second from bottom Fulham.
The home team equalised after the interval with a goal from Kieran Richardson and when Kompany sent an attempted clearance spiralling into his own net.
Jesus Navas restored City's lead in the 78th minute and poor defending allowed James Milner to make it 4-2.
City and England goalkeeper Joe Hart made his first league start since Oct. 27 having been dropped in favour of Romania's Costel Pantilimon who was on the bench this time following last weekend's 6-3 win over Arsenal.
Manchester United were never in any danger against fast-dropping West Ham, Welbeck adding to his two goals from last weekend's 3-0 victory at Aston Villa with a neat finish although debut Spanish keeper Adrian could have done better.
Young winger Januzaj, a rare bright spot in a difficult season for United after David Moyes took over as manager from Alex Ferguson, then grabbed his first Old Trafford goal.
After the break Young defied his critics by blasting home another cracker and Carlton Cole netted for West Ham.
Sixth-placed Newcastle United sealed a sixth victory in eight games with a 3-0 win at third from bottom Crystal Palace.
Stoke City rose to 10th after a 2-1 triumph at home to Aston Villa, Peter Crouch hitting the winner against his former club.
Managerless West Bromwich Albion began life without Steve Clarke, after his surprise sacking last weekend, with a 1-1 draw at home to Hull City thanks to Matej Vydra's late equaliser.
Wes Brown hit the post and was also sent off for a rash challenge late on as Sunderland drew 0-0 at home to Norwich City to leave Gus Poyet's side bottom at Christmas - something that normally implies doom come the end of the season.