Promotion Watch: Leaders Derby, Middlesbrough fighting Watford, Bournemouth for PL places

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With three short months until the end of the Championship season, culminating in the promotion playoffs final at Wembley Stadium on May 25 (10 am ET), it’s time to focus on the teams in line for promotion from England’s second division to the world’s most profitable league, the Premier League.

As things stand, Derby (65 points) and Middlesbrough (63) are in pole position to win automatic promotion, while Watford (62), Bournemouth (60), Ipswich (60 and Norwich City (59) would qualify in the four playoffs places for the third and final promotion bid. Brentford (58) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (57) have separated themselves from the rest of the pack and look most likely to unseat one of the current top-six.

[ MORE: Saturday’s Premier League roundup: Man United go third, tight wins elsewhere ]

A quick roundup of Saturday’s Championship results:

Fulham 2-0 Derby County

The league leaders visited Craven Cottage and returned home to the East Midlands with their tails tucked between their legs as 19th-placed Fulham pulled off one of the day’s many surprising results.

After eight wins in their last 11 league games, Derby shot up the standings and snatched the first-place spot from Bournemouth who sat atop the league for much of the 2014-15 season.

Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Middlesbrough

52nd- and 54-minute goals undid Aitor Karanka’s Boro side, who failed to capitalize on Derby’s identical defeat and go top of the league with 14 games still to be played.

Saturday’s defeat continues a mini-slump for Boro (one win in their last four), which comes right off the back of five-straight wins across January and February.

[ MORE: Sunday’s Premier League preview — Liverpool, Arsenal, Man City all in action ]

Leeds United 2-3 Watford

With the first- and second-placed teams losing on Saturday, that opened the door for fourth-placed Watford, who came from 2-0 down after 20 minutes, to close the gap between the playoff places and automatic promotion.

Thanks to third-placed Bournemouth’s 0-0 draw with Blackburn Rovers, Watford have leapfrogged into third place. With five wins in their last six, nobody in the promotion chase is hotter right now.

Cardiff City 0-1 Wolves

Wolves were in League 1 last season, and following a slow start to their Championship return, find themselves very much in the mix for a second-straight promotion. Saturday’s victory in Wales puts them just two points out of sixth (Ipswich and Norwich play each other Sunday).

It’s been 294 minutes since Kenny Jackett’s side last conceded a goal (three victories, 9-0 combined score). With back-to-back fixtures against Bournemouth and Watford this week, Wolves could be as high as third by this time next week.