Eetu Vertainen hit four goals as Linfield hammered Dungannon Swifts 5-0 to stretch their lead at the top of the table to four points after Glentoran were held 1-1 by Ballymena United.
Cliftonville jumped into second, one point above the Glens, with a 2-0 away victory over Glenavon and have a game in hand on both teams above them.
Crusaders beat bottom side Warrenpoint Town 2-1 as second-from-bottom Portadown defeated Coleraine 2-0 at home.
An ever-gripping Irish Premiership race went into Saturday’s matches with Linfield three points ahead of the Glens and Cliftonville a point further behind in third.
The Blues and the Glens now have one match left before the league’s split, while the Reds have two matches to play as they seek to add to their League Cup success last weekend.
At Windsor, Vertainen opened his Linfield goalscoring account when he put the hosts in front on 12 minutes after a good passing move saw Ben Hall play the ball into McKee just outside the box.
The young striker turned well and played a clever through ball to Vertainen, with the Finn turning inside Bilel Mohsni superbly before finding the bottom corner with a composed side-foot finish past Dwayne Nelson.
Vertainen got his second in the 29th minute, getting in behind the Swifts defence and guiding home a well-placed shot from a tight angle that seemed to surprise Nelson in the away goal.
McKee got the goal that his lively performance deserved on 35 minutes, running on to a fine Vertainen pass and bundling his way round Nelson before adjusting his feet well to poke home from close range.
Vertainen completed his hat-trick on 68 minutes with his best goal of the day from a Jordan Stewart pass, cutting inside with a clever chop before calmly slotting home.
His fourth arrived four minutes later when Kirk Millar delivered a low cross and he applied a fine first-time finish from close range to boost Linfield’s superior goal difference further.
Glentoran drop to third with Ballymena draw
Glentoran’s title hopes took a big hit as a draw at Ballymena United left them trailing leaders Linfield by five points.
It was a game which came to life in the second half at a sun-kissed Showgrounds with Ryan Waide smashing home the opener at the backpost for the hosts after 49 minutes.
The Glens levelled five minutes later as Jay Donnelly calmly slotted home a penalty after Kym Nelson’s foul on Shay McCartan.
The Sky Blues, who had lost their previous three league games, came close to restoring their lead when Waide charged through before rifling just over.
Glentoran pushed for a winner but they were thwarted by superb saves from Sean O’Neill to deny Conor McMenamin and Robbie McDaid.
United held on to move within a point of the final European play-off spot while the Glens drop to third place.
O’Neill and Gormley score as Reds keep pressure on Blues
Cliftonville kept the pressure on leaders Linfield with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Glenavon at Mourneview Park as Paddy McLaughlin’s side returned to Premiership action following heir League Cup success on Sunday.
Fresh from his double in the final against Coleraine, Paul O’Neill broke the deadlock on 26 minutes when he flicked home a long throw which the home defence failed to clear.
The opener came moments after Glenavon hit the bar at the other end when the lively Peter Campbell lifted the ball over Luke McNicholas but his effort came back off the woodwork.
A stretching O’Neill fired over from two yards as Cliftonville pushed for a second, however Joe Gormley, another cup final hero, doubled the lead four minutes after the restart when he headed home from close range.
Glenavon, with the wind in their sails, had a penalty appeal waved away when Mark Haughey’s cross appeared to strike the hand of Jonny Addis, however referee Tony Clarke was unmoved, and despite plenty of wind-assisted pressure Gary Hamilton’s men failed to trouble McNicholas in the bid to set up some late drama.
Crues beat Point with late goals
There was a late flurry of goals here at Seaview as Crusaders claimed all three points with a 2-1 win against basement side Warrenpoint Town.
A particularly uneventful first half unfolded in north Belfast, with Crusaders on top but not able to break down the visitors’ defence.
Into the second half and it was much of the same, up until the final 10 minutes. Brandon Doyle broke the deadlock for the hosts, before Warrenpoint struck back immediately through Ray O’Sullivan.
Just as the visitors thought they might be heading back to Milltown with a point, the Crues won it through Phillip Lowry.
Results elsewhere leave Warrenpoint 12 points adrift of Portadown, with Crusaders five points ahead of Larne, solidifying fourth spot.
Ports boost survival hopes with impressive win
Portadown boosted their survival hopes with an impressive 2-0 victory over defeated League Cup finalists Coleraine at Shamrock Park.
It was a first half with few clear-cut chances, Oisin Conaty forced Coleraine stopper Gareth Deane into a brilliant finger-tip save before Adam Salley beat the offside trap on 64 minutes to slot into the lead moments after Jethren Barr saved from Andrew Mitchell’s header at the other end.
The three points were secured five minutes later when Jamal Dupree’s cross was met by Harry Anderson, who powered a header home from close range.
With Carrick Rangers only drawing with Larne on Friday, the Ports are now one point off safety with one game remaining before the split.