Manchester United moved back into the title hunt with a 3-2 Premier League win at Chelsea that was marred by two poor officiating decisions.
Chelsea had fought back from 2-0 down and were in the ascendance when Branislav Ivanovic was correctly dismissed for fouling Ashley Young en route to goal.
But referee Mark Clattenburg showed Fernando Torres a second yellow card for diving when Jonny Evans caught him with a poorly-timed lunge as the Chelsea striker raced towards goal, the Spaniard apparently punished for overplaying his fall.
That error was compounded when Javier Hernandez scored the winning goal from an offside position, as the assistants failed to spot that he was behind the last defender when diverting Rafael’s cross-shot.
It was a shame that a great advertisement for the Premier League should be spoiled by poor decisions – many argue that goal-line technology in itself is not enough and that football should adopt tennis-style HawkEye challenges. On this evidence it is hard to disagree.
Before the controversy, Chelsea had done remarkably well to come from behind and looked well on their way to winning it after Ramires’s header completed a comeback started by a wonderful Juan Mata free-kick.
Those goals came either side of half-time, with United having cruised ahead thanks to Robin van Persie, whose fourth-minute finish rebounded off the crossbar and in off David Luiz, with the Dutchman claiming a bona-fide goal eight minutes later when a near-identical move saw him sweep home a fine finish.
David De Gea had kept United in the reckoning with a series of fine saves from Luiz, Gary Cahill, Torres and Mata, but he was powerless to stop the former Valencia forward’s fantastic effort just before half-time.
Chelsea were dominating possession and the deservedly levelled when, after Mata did well to keep a lost cause alive, Oscar’s lofted cross was headed in by Ramires.
De Gea was earning his coin, denying another Mata effort while Eden Hazard volleyed wide from a good spot.
United were hanging on but the pendulum swung back their way when Chelsea were reduced to 10 men.
Only Ivanovic will know if he meant to bring down Young as he raced clear through the middle, but once Clattenburg decided it was a foul, the Serb had to go. He had no complaints.
Rooney spanked the resultant free-kick over the bar but, with almost half an hour remaining, there was no panic as United chased victory.
They were given another helping hand when Torres, who had been booked for a rash tackle on Tom Cleverley, was taken out by Evans, who is renowned for his desperate lunges.
Most thought Clattenburg was reaching for his cards to book the Northern Ireland defender, and most reacted with shock when he showed it to Torres, who was incredulous as he walked off.
It was now only a matter of time before United added to their tally, but even that was questionable. Cech had done brilliantly to keep out a Van Persie finish, which trickled off the post and was palmed out by the Chelsea keeper.
Rafael’s low cross shot was certainly testing but Hernandez, who had been on the goal-line challenging Cech a split-second earlier, had not got back onside when he met the Brazilian’s drive.
A glance to the assistant by the Mexican confirmed his movement had not been spotted, and he wheeled away in a celebration that saw a steward injured when fans surged forward.
It was not over, Chelsea battling gamely as they threw what few men they had forward, and United should have added to their tally but for a poor miss by Antonio Valencia.
The victory, while barely deserved, puts United back up to second, one point behind the leaders as the title race looks set to be a three-way tussle at the very least.
MAN OF THE MATCH
David de Gea (Manchester United): The brilliant Mata beat him once but the United keeper was equal to pretty much everything else he could possibly have saved. A fantastic display of shot-stopping, the save from Torres a treat.
Chelsea: Cech 6, Ivanovic 5, Cahill 6, Luiz 5, Cole 5, Mikel 6, Ramires 7, Hazard 6, Mata 8, Oscar 7, Torres 6. Subs: Azpilicueta 6, Bertrand 6, Sturridge 6
Manchester United: De Gea 8, Rafael 7, Ferdinand 7, Evans 6, Evra 5, Valencia 7, Carrick 6, Cleverley 5, Young 7, Rooney 6, Van Persie 7. Subs: Giggs 6, Hernandez 7
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