Man Utd v Everton
Everton's unbeaten run is over - but it took Manchester United until seven minutes from time to break the resolve of the battling Blues.
David Moyes' side arrived in Manchester looking to make it eight games without defeat, knowing to do so they would need to become only the second side this season to take Premier League points away from Old Trafford.
With goalkeeper Tim Howard and the centre back pairing of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka outstanding, they almost did.
The visitors even had two debatable claims for penalties turned away, while Jack Rodwell came close to finding the bottom corner of Edwin van der Sar's net.
At the other end, dogged defiance frustrated Sir Alex Ferguson's title chasers, only for the lively Javier Hernandez to capitalise on a momentary lapse and head the late winner from point-blank range.
Moyes had hoped to recall Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta to the first-team fold, but the Scot could only call on the Australian, and then only to fill a space on his bench.
A hamstring problem for John Heitinga meant the Dutchman was also unavailable, so youngster Jack Rodwell came in as one of two changes. The other saw Seamus Coleman replace Frenchman Magaye Gueye.
The Blues made a positive if not dazzling start and registered the first shot on goal eight minutes in.
With Leon Osman in the kind of form he is, standing off him on the edge of the box is hardly recommended. Yet, that's just what United did. Fortunately for them, the midfielder, perhaps thrown by disbelief, scuffed his shot and Van der Sar gathered comfortably.
The half-chance served as a wake-up call to the hosts, a side now rapidly closing in on a record 19th English title.
Soon after, Wayne Rooney fed Nani down the left, but after scurrying inside right back Tony Hibbert, the Portuguese winger's meagre swing provided nothing more than catching practice for Howard on his return to The Theatre of Dreams.
But that ripple led to a succession of waves, one of which saw Hernandez break through the offside trap and this time force a parried save from Everton's custodian. The American then denied the energised Hernandez a second time, brilliantly palming away his instinctive sweep from 10-yards out.
It was largely thanks to Howard - and the impeccable positioning of Distin - that Everton were able to ride the storm through to half time. Fortune also played its part, however, Nani's goalbound effort striking the grounded Hernandez and deflecting wide of the upright as the whistle for the interval beckoned.
In all that time Everton rarely found possession in United's half. When they did, a penalty box tangle between Jonny Evans and Jermaine Beckford had the Blues faithful appealing for a spot kick. Unsuccessful; you've seen them given.
Moyes' response to seeing out the half was to make a double change for the second. Cahill came on for Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to make his first appearance since February, while Beckford made way for Victor Anichebe.
The result saw Everton the quicker off the mark once more, but a spell of possession failed to yield any clear-cut chances. At the other end, United's first post-break probe required Jagielka to nip in ahead of his waiting England team-mate Rooney.
Brute strength then helped Anichebe get the wrong side of Rio Ferdinand and go through on goal. The Nigerian's run was eventually halted when the United captain helped him to the ground inside the box. Again the travelling fans roared. Again referee Peter Walton was unconvinced.
With Everton clearly buoyed, the game became much more of a contest, and while United continued to feed the ball into the Blues' box, Rodwell had Van der Sar scrambling across his to turn a deflected effort past the post.
Anichebe's presence was certainly being felt too, and the striker only narrowly failed to connect with Coleman's clever flick through after convincingly fighting off his marker.
A snap-shot from United substitute Michael Owen then struck the outside of the post, before Moyes played his final card, replacing Coleman with Gueye.
As is their trademark, United jacked up the pressure as time ebbed away and after Rooney twice fired wide, Howard again flung himself to frustrate Hernandez.
But it was the Mexican who would land the final blow of that particular contest. Valencia gained a yard on Distin, and when his cross looped up off the Frenchman's outstretched leg, there was the match-winner, primed to nod home at the back post.