London: Bournemouth, Watford and Middlesbrough all thumped four goals on Saturday to remain tied at the top of the Championship, while Derby and Norwich remain hot on their heels after playing out a 1-1 draw.
A first half hat-trick by forward Brett Pitman helped free-scoring Bournemouth to a 4-0 win over lowly Blackpool at Dean Court, the other goal coming from the penalty spot courtesy of strike partner Callum Wilson.
Following their third straight win, the Cherries remain in top spot on goal difference, while Blackpool look doomed, 18 points from safety.
Watford take up the second automatic promotion slot after running out 4-1 winners over Reading at Vicarage Road.
The home team got off to the perfect start when Kosovo midfielder Almen Abdi planted a right footed shot past Mikkel Andersen after 53 seconds.
Czech forward Matej Vydra doubled the lead before half-time before Troy Deeney made the game safe with a close-range strike.
Jem Karacan pulled one back for the visitors, but Fernando Forestieri restored the three-goal cushion late on.
Middlesbrough ended the day in third place, also on 69 points, after sweeping past play-off contenders Ipswich 4-1 in the day`s early game.
Spanish defender Daniel Ayala headed `Boro into an early lead, but they were soon hauled back by Darryl Murphy`s 23rd goal of the season.
Town were blown away by a goal from forward Albert Adomah and two from Chelsea`s on-loan star Patrick Bamford.
Derby had started the day tied with the leaders, but had to rely on a second-half own-goal to rescue a point in their game with form-team Norwich at Carrow Road.
Former Cardiff striker Cameron Jerome side-footed the Canaries into a 30th-minute lead but County levelled when goalkeeper John Ruddy spilled a Jamie Hanson cross into his own goal.
Norwich remain well-placed in fifth place, three points off the leading pack.
Brentford take up the last play-off spot despite losing 2-1 to Cardiff, who ended the match at Griffin Park with nine men.
Bees striker Andre Gray put the home side in front, but shambolic defending allowed former Manchester United striker Federico Macheda and Alex Revell to steal the points.
Macheda later followed teammate Kadeem Harris down the tunnel after picking up a second booking.
At the foot of the table, Wigan, held on to claim a vital 2-1 victory against fellow strugglers Rotherham, giving them a glimmer of hope in their fight for survival.
Two free-kicks from former Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant gave the Latics a two-goal lead, before Matt Derbyshire pulled one back to make it a nervy finale.
Despite the win, Wigan remain six points behind fourth-bottom Rotherham, and three points ahead of managerless Millwall who appear stranded after losing 2-0 at Bolton.
Elsewhere, two late goals saw Brighton and Wolves share the points in a 1-1 draw while Blackburn won 3-1 at Charlton thanks to two goals from Jordan Rhodes.
Fulham are looking nervously over their shoulder despite rescuing a late point in a 1-1 draw Sheffield Wednesday, while there were also draws in the games between Leeds and Nottingham Forest and Birmingham and Huddersfield.