Manchester United wasted a chance to cement their position at the top of the Premier League after being held to a 2-2 draw at home to 10-man Sunderland on Saturday.
Only an injury-time own-goal equalizer by Anton Ferdinand salvaged a point for the champions.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had kicked off looking for a ninth consecutive win in all competitions, but they twice fell behind to Steve Bruce’s side, who conceded the late equalizer after former United winger Kieran Richardson had been sent off after being booked for a second time for petulantly kicking the ball away at a free-kick.
Darren Bent stunned United in the seventh minute when he drove a low shot past Ben Foster from the edge of the penalty area for his seventh goal of the season.
United equalized in spectacular fashion in the 51st minute through Dimitar Berbatov’s overhead-kick, only for Kenwyne Jones to restore the lead by rising above Foster to head in Andy Reid’s cross.
The Black Cats were set for their first win at Old Trafford since 1968, but their evening ended in frustration as Evra’s shot found the net off the boot of Ferdinand.
“Our passing was very poor in the first half. In the end, we needed to show some great qualities to get something out of the game on a day when we played really badly,” Ferguson said.
Former United star Bruce admitted a draw was hard to take.
“I don’t know what the stat is for the number of times Manchester United have done that, but it is what makes this club what it is I suppose,” Bruce said.
At the other end of the table, Portsmouth glimpsed some light at the end of a very dark tunnel as the crisis-hit club finally claimed their first points of the season with a 1-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
At the end of a week in which the failure to pay last month’s salaries on time raised concerns the club could be on the brink of bankruptcy, a first-half goal from Hassan Yebda was enough to draw a line under a run of seven straight defeats for Paul Hart’s side.
After the match, a relieved Hart confirmed the outstanding wages owed to certain players and staff would be paid today and claimed new owner Sulaiman Al-Fahim was planning a £150 million (US$239 million) injection of cash.
“I think what is best said is over the next few days we will have new investment and this club will have some good news instead of bad stuff,” Hart said.
The goal that ended Portsmouth’s miserable run came in the 19th minute, when Yebda, on loan from Benfica, headed in Kevin-Prince Boateng’s cross.
Portsmouth defender Mark Wilson was fortunate to escape sanction for what appeared to be a blatant hand-ball inside the penalty area and only a superb late stop by David James denied Greg Halford a volleyed equalizer.
It was also a day of relief for Portsmouth’s fellow strugglers Hull City, who escaped from the relegation zone with a 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic.
Former Celtic striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink notched his first Premier League goal for Hull with a near post header to give Phil Brown’s side the lead against Wigan.
Brazilian playmaker Geovanni doubled the lead with just over 20 minutes left, but on-loan Chelsea striker Scott Sinclair ensured a tense finale for the home supporters by pulling a goal back three minutes from the end.
Tottenham Hotspur’s aspirations to breaking into the top four took a dent as they were obliged to twice come from behind to draw 2-2 at Bolton Wanderers.