Manchester United defeated Bournemouth 1-0 on Saturday to solidify its position in the top four of the Premier League, putting it within striking distance of a return to the Champions League.
Casemiro's close-range overhead kick in the ninth minute gave United the victory, which gave them a three-point lead over Liverpool in fifth place, who drew 1-1 with Aston Villa and still have one game remaining.
After missing the Champions League for a season, United simply needs a point from its next two games, against Chelsea and Fulham at home. That would be yet another benefit for United in their successful first year under Dutch coach Erik ten Hag, who has already led them to the English League Cup championship and a berth in the FA Cup final on June 3. They will play Manchester City in that matchup.
United could be able to sign larger stars during the winter transfer window thanks to their participation in the Champions League, increasing the worth of a team that is up for sale and the target of bids from Qatar and British tycoon Jim Ratcliffe.
With the Brazilian midfielder Casemiro controlling the game at Vitality Stadium since coming from Real Madrid last year, it was perhaps appropriate that his goal brought United so close to that top-four spot.
His goal came following a sporadic move forward. Casemiro responded to the ball taking a tiny deflection off a Bournemouth defender by shifting his body and acrobatically volleying in off the post with his back to goal. Christian Eriksen clipped a pass over the defense and into the penalty area toward Casemiro.
Because of Marcus Rashford's sickness, United was unable to attack against a Bournemouth squad that was already safe from relegation and had nothing left to play for.
For United to win and keep the scoreless, David De Gea had to make a diving save from substitute Kieffer Moore.
As the Brazilian said farewell to Anfield with a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on Saturday, Roberto Firmino put Liverpool's hopes of playing in the Champions League the next season on a knife-edge.
In his farewell home game for the club, the Brazilian scored his 110th Liverpool goal one minute from the end.
The Reds' slim prospects of catching Newcastle and Manchester United for a top-four finish, though, were not helped by a point, as both teams now need only one point from their next two games to secure Champions League participation.
A point also increases Villa's prospects of making their first trip back to Europe since 2010.
With a victory against Brighton in their last game next weekend, Unai Emery will move one point above of Tottenham in seventh place, ensuring at the very least that his team will play in the Europa Conference League the following season.
Liverpool's prospects of making the Champions League were still in the running thanks to a seven-game winning streak.
However, Jurgen Klopp's team, who came dangerously near to winning a record quadruple of titles last season, had a really bad year behind that run.
This time, there may not even be the solace of a top-four finish for a season without a title, which might affect Klopp's transfer budget for a summer reconstruction.
Villa missed an Ollie Watkins penalty attempt in the first half, which might have been worse for the hosts.
The England international was hauled down by the Frenchman after outpacing Ibrahima Konate and winning the penalty kick.
Watkins, though, extended his dismal penalty record by missing his sixth effort in his career after shooting wide.
On 27 minutes, Douglas Luiz's cross was expertly guided in by Jacob Ramsey at the far post to give Villa the lead.
Following his team's victory against Tottenham last month, Klopp questioned the impartiality of the referee, Paul Tierney, and was given the first of a two-match touchline suspension.
The German's absence was felt throughout a lackluster performance, but had he been on the sidelines, two significant decisions that went against Klopp's team may have put him in even more danger.
The first thing to note is that Tyrone Mings avoided being sent off for a high challenge that left stud marks on Cody Gakpo's chest.
After a goalmouth melee, Gakpo then put the ball in the back of the net at the hour mark.
However, after yet another in-depth VAR review, referee John Brooks concluded that Virgil van Dijk's contribution to the buildup from an offside position was inside the same phase of play as the goal, which was subsequently overturned.
Twenty minutes from the end, Firmino came off the bench to guide home Mohamed Salah's cross, setting up a fairytale ending that just required a Liverpool victory.
The champagne was left on ice for Newcastle and Manchester United since Villa managed to hold out for more than 10 minutes of stoppage time.
When Newcastle plays home to Leicester on Monday, they will have a chance to win Champions League soccer for the first time in 20 years.
Erik ten Hag's first season as United's manager presents them with two home meetings versus Chelsea and Fulham.