Manchester United left it late to take all three points from Blackburn Rovers as goals from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young fired the Red Devils five points clear of rivals Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title.
United started the game in top gear, pressing Blackburn back into their own half for almost the entirety of the first 15 minutes of play. The first chance to come fell after only 5 minutes when Javier Hernandez nearly latches on to Wayne Rooney's precision pass, only for Grant Hanley to smuggle the ball away from a dangerous position, giving Hernandex a firm but fair clattering in the process.
Hanley was in the thick of the action only 5 minutes on from that, as he did well to take the ball off and advanced Rafael. This time the Brazilian's touch was a little too heavy but the warning signs were there for Blackburn that they were to endure a very long night.
Hernandez nearly opened the scoring after 11 minutes when the Mexican striker nipped in at the front post to meet Antonio Valencia's low cross. The ball came back off the post, and off Paul Robinson in the home goalmouth, but thankfully for the Ewood Park faithful the ball rebounded into the arms of the one time England keeper, and scores remained level.
With Blackburn under severe pressure, and really struggling to get any sort of foothold in the game, they'd have to rely on counter-attacking play, and Junior Hoilett nearly provided his side with an unlikely lead after 17 minutes. Out-pacing Michael Carrick on the half-way line, the Canadian charged in on the United goal. The curling effort required David De Gea, a virtual by-stander to this point, to be at full stretch and palm away.
Phil Joines wasted a glorious chance to score against his former club in the 34th minute, heading wide from inside the six-yard box after a neat move involving Patrice Evra, Paul Scholes and Valencia again as United continued to knock on the door.
United had an appeal for a penalty turned down in the 41st minute when Michael Carrick's shot struck Scott Dann on the arm, but with the ball coming from point-blank range, and with his arms tucked into his body as much as possible there was no way referee Howard Webb could have given anything.
Right on the stroke of half-time Blacburn forced David De Gea into two stunning saves as we were all reminded there was two teams involved in the game. First Marcus Olsson's sweetly struck half-volley was parried over superbly, and from the following corner, De Gea had to get up well to tip Hanley's header over the bar.
Blackburn certainly ended the half encouragingly, but for the other 44 minuted there was really only one team in it.
The home side however did come out much better in the second period, applying plenty of pressure on the United goal, but clear cut chances were in short supply. Meanwhile at the other end, Rooney forced Robinson into a good save from a free-kick after Paul Scholes was felled 15-yards out.
Moments later Rafael tested the Blackburn keeper with a vicious drive, and with the ball eventually being bundled away for a corner, United had yet another chance as Javier Hernandez, ,perhaps not realizing he was onside, fluffed a simple looking header when completely unmarked on the hour.
In what was becoming an end-to-end second half, Yakubu sent a pair of drives wide of De Gea's goal, before Morten Gamst Pedersen's hammer of a freekick was spilled into a dangerous area by the young Spaniard.
Pedersen did have the ball in the net on 62 minutes only for the linesman to rule correctly that Steven N'Zonzi's cross had gone out of play before Martin Olsson's thumping drive hit the back of the net.
United turned the heat up a bit on a chilly night in Lancashire and dominated for the final 25 minutes of the game, despite a lack of openings. Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia sent in a string of dangerous crosses which Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Wayne Rooney all too turns in squandering.
Eventually with ten minutes left to play we had a breakthrough, and it was the night's most dangerous player, Antonio Valencia, who grabbed the crucial goal. Perhaps frustrated with players continually wasting the good crosses he was providing all night, the Ecuadoran smashed a cross-come-shot into Paul Robinson's goal from an acute angle. A goal his performance had deserved after another outstanding display.
The game was over at that point, but United certainly were not as on 85 minutes Ashley Young, on only minuted before as a substitute, turned and fired low into Robinson's bottom corner with venom to put the game, and maybe even the title, beyond doubt.