Feyenoord took a big step towards their first league title since 2017 with a 3-1 win at city rivals Sparta, while Ajax were brought down to earth by Go Ahead Eagles.
A smash-and-grab by Igor Paixão at a corner gave Feyenoord a 12th-minute lead before the hosts hit back with an exquisite curler by Luxembourg wing-back Mica Pinto.
Sparta had a golden opportunity to take the lead on the stroke of half-time when Mats Wieffer was penalised for handball in the area, but Vito van Crooij’s spot-kick was smothered by Timon Wellenreuther.
Feyenoord stepped up the pressure in the second half and were rewarded when Santiago Gimenez finished off Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s precise pass, before David Hancko made sure of the result with a third goal in the 75th minute.
Ajax failed to beat Go Ahead Eagles for the fourth league match in a row as they drew 0-0 in Deventer, after Mohamed Kudus’s header in the first half was ruled out for offside after a VAR check.
The results mean Feyenoord have an eight-point lead with seven matches to play and a favourable run-in. Ajax still have to visit PSV and Twente and take on AZ at home, while the highest-placed of Feyenoord’s remaining opponents are Utrecht in seventh.
PSV are now level on points with Ajax after a comfortable 4-2 win at NEC. Ruud van Nistelrooy’s side were 4-0 up early in the second half when Luuk de Jong bundled in his second of the match, before two swipes of Oussama Tannane’s left boot made the scoreline more respectable.
AZ Alkmaar missed the chance to make it a three-way tie in second place as they could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Heerenveen. Sydney van Hooijdonk slipped his marker and tapped in to give the Frisian side an early lead, while AZ were shut out by the outstanding Xavier Mous until Mexx Meerdinck squeezed in a shot in the 75th minute.
At the bottom of the table, Cambuur’s woes deepened as they lost at home to relegation rivals Emmen, who came back from 1-0 down with an injury-time winner from Jeroen Veldmate.
Groningen were unable to recover from going 2-0 behind in Sittard, with Inigo Cordoba bagging both goals, eventually losing 3-1, while the team above them in 16th, Excelsior, widened the gap to seven points with a goalless draw at home to Twente.
Emmen and Excelsior drew level with Vitesse, who came away from Waalwijk empty-handed as veteran striker Michiel Kramer celebrated a contract extension by smashing in his eighth goal of the season.
Utrecht had to settle for a point against Volendam after having three goals disallowed, two of them after VAR reviews.
AZ Alkmaar 1-1 Heerenveen
Cambuur Leeuwarden 1-2 Emmen
Excelsior 0-0 Twente Enschede
NEC Nijmegen 2-4 PSV Eindhoven
Fortuna Sittard 3-1 Groningen
Go Ahead Eagles 0-0 Ajax
Sparta Rotterdam 1-3 Feyenoord
Utrecht 0-0 Volendam
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