1ST LEAD: Chelsea's title hopes suffer another blow; Villa third

Chelsea's title hopes suffer another blow; Villa third London - Chelsea's title hopes took a potentially decisive blow on Saturday when they were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Hull City in the English Premier League.

Aston Villa leapfrogged them into third place after they won 2-0 at Blackburn Rovers, their seventh consecutive away win.

West Bromwich Albion remain bottom after they were edged out 3-2 at home by Newcastle United, while there were also wins for Everton, Manchester City and Sunderland.

Chelsea, beaten at Liverpool last weekend, put in another disappointing performance as Hull City gained a vital point in their own quest for survival.

Ricardo Quaresma was given his debut for the club but he was barely influential as Chelsea's poor home form continued with a fifth draw at Stamford Bridge, dropping them to fourth.

Villa moved above Chelsea into third, level on points with Liverpool, after a hard-earned 2-0 win at Blackburn Rovers.

James Milner fired them ahead on 27 minutes and though Blackburn had chances to level, a deflected strike from Gabriel Agbonlahor in injury time sealed the points for Martin O'Neill's side.

Brazilian Jo scored two goals on his debut as sixth-placed Everton beat Bolton Wanderers 3-0, while Kenwyne Jones and David Healy scored the goals as Sunderland beat ten-man Stoke City 2-0.

Manchester City added to Middlesbrough's relegation worries after they beat Gareth Southgate's side 1-0, Craig Bellamy scoring the only goal of the game six minutes into the second half.

Wigan and Fulham drew 0-0 in the day's other game, and with the bottom four teams all losing, West Brom remain at the foot of the table with an inferior goal difference to Middlesbrough after their defeat by Newcastle United.

Later on Saturday, Liverpool can go top of the table, for a few hours at least, if they win at Portsmouth. Champions Manchester United, two points clear at the top, are away to West Ham United on Sunday. (dpa)