And the title race is re-ignited. Paul Scholes' last-gasp goal stunned Manchester City as Manchester United caused their neighbours more injury-time heartbreak at Eastlands. There were just 20 seconds of the three additional minutes left as Scholes rose to head home Patrice Evra's left-wing cross from 10 yards.
It was an amazing finish to a stale game that seemed destined to end goalless. For Scholes, who signed a one-year contract extension yesterday, it was his 149th United goal and the perfect way to retain the outside title hopes.
Yet again after a meeting with the team they are so desperate to usurp, City must lift themselves off the floor after suffering the most shattering of blows, the third time this season United have beaten them in stoppage time. After his appearance against Bayern Munich 10 days ago, it was hardly a surprise Wayne Rooney should declare himself fit after just a single day's training. But he looked ill at ease, repeated rants at referee Martin Atkinson and a petulant kick at Nigel de Jong belying his mood. Rooney appeared tentative, he declined to set up Ryan Giggs when he had the chance to do so, and there was no real conviction behind his only decent opportunity of the opening period.
Having beaten Kolo Toure, the goal opened up for striker, who had scored 34 times before his unfortunate ankle injury. He dragged the effort wide though, which only increased his frustration. His game was eventually brought to an end 15 minutes from time when he was replaced by Dimitar Berbatov.
Only Antonio Valencia looked as though he could cause significant problems. Having escaped a penalty-box handball that went unseen by Atkinson and, apparently, the entire United team, Wayne Bridge was undone by the Ecuador man just before the break. Valencia squeezed a cross through to the near post where Giggs was alert enough to make contact, but lacked the power to beat Shay Given. For their part, City seemed to have more movement but invariably ran into a defensive brick wall. Against his old club, Carlos Tevez curled an early free-kick towards the top corner only for Edwin van der Sar to make an excellent save.
There was no discernable improvement – either in the overall quality or Rooney's temper – in the opening minutes of the second-half. The problem for United was that with their bulwark at less than full throttle and Valencia only source of pace, they were reliant on guile alone. City had more speed and a flowing move ended when Craig Bellamy crashed a shot into the side-netting. Shortly afterwards, the Blues had a penalty appeal turned down. Gareth Barry could be accused of making too much of minimal contact by Gary Neville. There was certainly contact though, and not with the ball.
The crowd were still digesting that incident when Giggs got on the end of a long ball beyond the City defence and would have been clean through had he not been confronted immediately by Given, whose goal was threatened by Berbatov with a deft header shortly after. It then took the interventions of Nemanja Vidic and Darren Fletcher to ensure a scramble caused by Van der Sar's ill-advised charge to meet a corner did not end in disaster. This flurry of activity gave the impression of a game finally heading somewhere. Scholes found the map.
And afterwards, Alex Ferguson hailed the scorer. "It would have been very, very difficult if we had not won. I think we deserved to win, no question, but I couldn't see a goal coming. I decided to put Scholes a bit further forward and it paid off."
Neville said United needed a positive result. "We were hoping for something today as we had not had a great two weeks. Scholesy had passed them to death all day and gives us a little bit of life. We just have to hope someone does us a favour." Scholes himself said: "I think we were the team pressing to try to score and fortunately we were lucky enough to win the game with not much time left. It's nice to win any game against City and away especially."
Roberto Mancini said he was "angry and disappointed. That's football, it's incredible, but for us it doesn't change anything. The crucial match will be against Tottenham here."