LONDON, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Wolverhampton Wanderers extended their lead at the top of the Championship to 12 points as they comfortably beat an improving Brentford 3-0.
Second-half goals from Ruben Neves, Barry Douglas and Diogo Jota earned Nuno Espirito Santo’s side their 10th league victory in their last 12 games and took them to 61 points from 26 matches - well clear of second-placed Derby County in England’s second tier.
The margin of Wolves’ victory could have been significantly greater but for an excellent performance by Brentford goalkeeper Daniel Bentley.
After Leo Bonatini had hit the post and Nico Yennaris cleared Jota’s effort off the line, Bentley denied Matt Doherty and made a double save from Helder Costa and Jota before producing a flying stop to keep out another Jota effort - all before halftime.
Neves made the breakthrough on 57 minutes, Douglas added a second two minutes later and Wolves could finally relax against a spirited Brentford side who had won their previous three league games before Jota added a late third with his 12th goal of the season.
Fulham took advantage of Jordan Spence’s second-half red card to score four goals in seven minutes and hammer fellow playoff chasers Ipswich Town 4-1.
The Londoners were trailing to Joe Garner’s goal on the stroke of halftime when Spence was sent off for a foul on Aboubakar Kamara in the 54th minute, triggering a goal avalanche.
Ryan Sessegnon and Kamara each scored twice midway through the second half to lift Fulham to within four points of the playoff places.
Birmingham City hauled themselves off the bottom of the table with a surprise 2-0 win at Reading.
Jacques Maghoma and Sam Gallagher scored the goals that earned Birmingham their second successive victory.
Reading are in 18th place, four points clear of the relegation zone.
Reporting by Neville Dalton, editing by Ed Osmond