Raheem Sterling’s quick-fire second-half hat-trick sent Manchester City four points clear at the top of the Premier League, but there was controversy over the opener that broke down a stubborn Watford side.
With the game goalless at the start of the second half, Sterling was challenged by Daryl Janmaat, as he ran on to Sergio Aguero’s flick and the ball cannoned off him and into the net.
Sterling was clearly offside when Aguero chested the ball into his path and the lineman’s flag went up. But, after a long discussion with his fellow official, referee Paul Tierney overruled his decision, to the disbelief of the Hornets players.
There was no disputing the legality of Sterling’s second goal, which came only four minutes later when he tapped in Riyad Mahrez’s cross at the far post after a flowing City move.
And, just before the hour mark, the 24-year-old England forward made it 3-0, running on to a David Silva pass and cutting past two defenders before slotting home his 18th goal of the season.
Earlier, Southampton had produced a stirring comeback to beat third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who failed to win for the fourth successive Premier League game.
Harry Kane’s 17th top-flight strike of the season put Spurs 1-0 ahead at St Mary’s before two goals in five second-half minutes by Yan Valery and James Ward-Prowse earned Saints a fine win.
Despite Southampton’s battling win, the comeback of the day came at St James’ Park, where Newcastle trailed Everton 2-0 before winning 3-2.
Leading through Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goal, Everton keeper Jordan Pickford blatantly fouled Salomon Rondon after dropping the ball at the forward’s feet.
Referee Lee Mason awarded a penalty but did not send Pickford off – and the keeper atoned for his error by saving Matt Ritchie’s spot-kick.
Richarlison doubled the Toffees’ lead before Rondon reduced the deficit, Ayoze Perez scoring twice in three minutes to seal an incredible victory.
Elsewhere, Jamie Vardy scored twice in Leicester City’s 3-1 win over Fulham – Brendan Rodgers’ first victory as Foxes boss.
Leicester took the lead through Youri Tielemans, only for Togo international Floyd Ayite to equalise before Vardy’s double.