Harry Kane lifted the gloom at Tottenham Hotspur Wednesday, scoring twice in a convincing 4-0 win against Crystal Palace as Nottingham Forest hauled themselves out of the relegation zone.
Forest beat bottom side Southampton 1-0 while troubled Wolverhampton Wanderers drew 1-1 at Aston Villa and struggling West Ham United shared the points with Leeds United in a 2-2 draw.
Antonio Conte’s inconsistent Tottenham, who finished fourth last season, had taken just one point from two matches after the Premier League resumed following the World Cup.
The disaffected Italian manager, used to success at Inter Milan, Chelsea and Juventus, warned this week he would only stick around if he was 100% convinced by the club’s project.
Conte was looking for a reaction after Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at home against Villa and he eventually got it despite an insipid first-half performance from his team.
“The character of this team always shows,” he told Sky Sports.
“Maybe only in the last game against Villa we didn’t have a strong reaction. Otherwise every game we show strong character.
“It is really important. We got three points. We continue to stay very close for the good positions. After you don’t win and the confidence is down, it was important to win.”
Spurs were second best in the first half at Selhurst Park, lacking zip in attack and had goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to thank for keeping the score at 0-0 but it was a different story after the break.
England captain Kane scored twice in five minutes in his 300th Premier League appearance to move just two goals behind Jimmy Greaves’ all-time record of 266 goals for Spurs.
Tottenham broke the deadlock in the 48th minute when Ivan Perisic crossed to Kane from the left and he neatly nodded past Vicente Guaita at the near post.
Kane doubled Spurs’ lead when the ball fell to Bryan Gil on the right and he flicked a pass to the England forward, who sent a low strike unerringly into the bottom left corner.
Matt Doherty made it 3-0 midway through the second half and Son Heung-min completed the scoring four minutes later, lifting Spurs to 33 points – just two behind fourth-placed Manchester United.
Forest climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone courtesy of a precious 1-0 victory, which heaped more misery on basement club Southampton.
Taiwo Awoniyi’s fifth goal of the season earned his team a first top-flight away success of the season to strengthen their survival hopes.
Steve Cooper’s resurgent side have now taken 11 points from the past 21 available, having only managed six from the previous 33, and fully merited a significant triumph on the south coast.
“It’s better to be out of the bottom three than in it for sure but it’s one step at a time,” Cooper told the BBC.
“I really challenged the players to get the first away win and challenged myself and the staff. We’re all in it together.”
He added: “The objective is not just to stay out but move up the table, but that’s easier said than done and we will do everything we can to get results.”
West Ham were on course for their first league win since October when they took a 2-1 lead against Leeds at Elland Road but Spain international Rodrigo equalized in the 70th minute.
David Moyes’ side, who had lost their previous five matches in the Premier League, remain perilously placed, outside the bottom three only on goal difference.
Both sides wore black armbands as a mark of respect for West Ham’s joint-chairman David Gold, who died earlier Wednesday aged 86.
Daniel Podence fired Wolves into the lead at Villa Park but Danny Ings levelled in the 78th minute to ensure Wolves remained in the relegation zone.
Wednesday’s results also sucked Frank Lampard’s Everton into the bottom three.
Manchester City take on Chelsea Thursday, bidding to close the gap to leaders Arsenal to five points.
Villa 1 (Ings 78) Wolves 1 (Podence 12)
Palace 0 Tottenham 4 (Kane 48, 53, Doherty 68, Son 72)
Leeds 2 (Gnonto 27, Rodrigo 70) West Ham 2 (Paqueta 45-P, Scamacca 46)
Southampton 0 Forest 1 (Awoniyi 27)