Had they beaten their London rivals at the Emirates Stadium, Jose Mourinho’s men would have traveled to Leicester Wednesday knowing that victory over the resurgent Foxes would have been enough to secure Chelsea’s first English title since 2010.
However, a win Wednesday will set Chelsea up to take the Premier League trophy in front of their own fans should they also beatCrystal Palace at Stamford Bridge next weekend.
Sunday’s fiery clash ended with Arsenal going level on points with second-placed Manchester City, with both clubs 10 points adrift of Chelsea, who like the Gunners have five league matches left to play this season.
The draw meant Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was still waiting for his first win over Mourinho, the Frenchman now having failed to record a victory in 13 meetings with his Portuguese counterpart.
Chelsea had three penalty appeals turned down and Arsenal one in the first half of a game which saw Mourinho put out a starting XI that contained no recognized strikers following injuries to Diego Costa and Loic Remy, with Didier Drogba not fully fit.
Had United won on Merseyside, they would have climbed into second place.
But this defeat, their third in as many league visits to Goodison Park, left Louis van Gaal’s side fourth in the table with four matches to play as goals from James McCarthy, John Stones and Kevin Mirallas saw Everton rise into 10th place.
Only the top three teams in the Premier League at the end of the season go straight into the first round of the Champions League, with the side finishing fourth facing the prospect of a qualifying round.
United are not yet certain of fourth, given they lead Liverpool, who are fifth, by seven points having played a game more than their bitter rivals.
United manager van Gaal said his side, who’ve now lost seven league matches this season, had been out-fought by Everton.
“We have always had more fighting spirit on the pitch and I think that this is the first match that the other team have shown more of that than us,” the Dutchman told Sky Sports.
Delighted Everton manager Roberto Martinez said: “I thought we were well worth a three-goal lead and that speaks volumes. To keep the concentration for 90 minutes and keep a clean sheet was magnificent.”
It took Everton, who kicked off 24 points behind United, just five minutes to open the scoring in front of their own fans as McCarthy, shrugging off a couple of flimsy challenges, beat United goalkeeper David de Gea.
Everton doubled their lead 10 minutes before halftime when Stones powered in a header from a corner.
The second half saw a 74th-minute goal from Belgium international Mirallas secure Everton’s victory.
Ross Barkley’s ball forward appeared to be aimed at the offside Romelu Lukaku.
But Lukaku, showing impressive awareness, opted out of receiving the ball and, in the midst of appeals for offside from United, the onside Mirallas raced beyond his teammate and swept the ball in.