Javier Hernandez scored a 90th-minute winner as Manchester United overcame Newcastle United 4-3 in an extraordinary Premier League game at Old Trafford.
The Premier League leaders twice came from behind in a match of controversy and thrilling excitement.
James Perch gave Newcastle an early lead before Jonny Evans scored first at the right end, then the wrong one amid uproar over an offside that was withdrawn by ref Mike Dean.
Patrice Evra restored parity just before the hour only for Papiss Cisse to put Newcastle in front again.
Robin van Persie quickly equalised and Manchester United missed a host of chances before Hernandez finally netted the winner in the final minute of normal time.
Manchester City's unexpected defeat to Sunderland means United go seven points clear at the half-way point in the Premier League season.
The absence of Wayne Rooney from the Manchester United team sheet caused an immediate stir, especially in light of his axeing from the side last festive season following a Boxing Day night out.
United were quick to issue a statement saying Rooney and Ashley Young had been injured in training, while Danny Welbeck was taken ill overnight.
The embryonic controversy was blown out of the water by 90 minutes of nearly unbroken incident.
Perch gave Newcastle the lead on four minutes after David De Gea spilled a seemingly innocuous Demba Ba shot.
Manchester United were off the pace with their central midfield pairing of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes showing their years.
Evans levelled on 25 minutes when Newcastle failed to clear a free-kick, Hernandez saw a shot parried and the defender tucked away the rebound.
Danny Simpson hit a 25-yard shot from the right side when Papiss Cisse was in an offside position.
As the ball came in Evans, who was marking Cisse, touched the ball into his own net.
The offside flag went up against Cisse, but after prolonged discussion with his linesman referee Mike Dean allowed the goal.
The officials' rationale was that Cisse, who did not touch the ball or block De Gea's view, was not interfering with play.
Alex Ferguson predictably flew into a rage, berating both the referee and his assistant. He will feel that a striker three yards from goal is always interfering, and that Evans would not have scored an own goal had Cisse not been there.
Despite Ferguson's fury, by the letter of the law the referee's decision was probably correct - and he might have focussed on his own team's sub-standard performance rather than lash out at the officials.
Sylvain Marveaux hit the bar with a free-kick as the home side repaired to their dressing room lucky to be just a goal down.
Evra made a captain's contribution on 58 minutes, firing home from the edge of the box for his second goal in as many games and his fourth of the season.
But Cisse put Newcastle back in front when he converted a low pull-back from United old boy Gabriel Obertan.
Almost immediately, Van Persie found the bottom-right corner at the second attempt to make it three-all and a home win seemed inevitable.
Hernandez missed a hat-trick of presentable chances - one a sitter of a header from eight yards - while Van Persie and Antonio Valencia also finished errantly.
At the other end, Sammy Ameobi saw a shot clang back off the post, but the final word went to Hernandez.
The Mexican timed his run perfectly to meet Michael Carrick's through ball and slide the ball under Krul to settle one of the games of the season.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Patrice Evra (Manchester United): A captain's performance from the Frenchman as he rose above the mayhem to produce a telling contribution.
MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea 5; Smalling 6, Ferdinand 6, Evans 7, Evra (c) 7; Valencia 7, Carrick 7, Scholes 5, Giggs 5; Van Persie 7, Hernandez 7. Subs: Fletcher N/A, Cleverley 6.
NEWCASTLE: Krul 7; Simpson 7, Williamson 6, Coloccini (c) 7, Santon 6; Anita 6, Perch 7, Bigirimana 7; Cisse 7, Ba 6, Marveaux 7. Subs: Obertan 7, Sammy Ameobi N/A, Shola Ameobi 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- Manchester United
- Javier Hernandez
- Papiss Cisse
- Newcastle United
- Patrice Evra
- Jonny Evans