LONDON, A 90th-minute goal by Javier Hernandez gave Manchester United a thrilling 4-3 victory at home to Newcastle United on Wednesday that put Alex Ferguson's men seven points clear in the Premier League.
The leaders had to come from behind three times to win, and second-place Manchester City's 1-0 loss at Sunderland meant that the traditional Boxing Day fixtures left United with plenty of reasons to feel thankful.
United were without Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck due to injury and illness, and they fell behind in the fourth minute when James Perch tapped in after David de Gea saved from Demba Ba.
Jonny Evans equalised in the 25th minute, sliding in after Tim Krul denied Javier Hernandez, but the Northern Irishman undid his good work four minutes later when he inadvertently turned in Danny Simpson's cross for an own goal.
The goal was given despite Papiss Cisse lingering in an offside position behind Evans, and United manager Ferguson harangued referee Mike Dean and his officials as the teams returned for the second half.
Patrice Evra drew the hosts level just before the hour, driving in from the edge of the area to claim his fourth goal of the campaign, only for Cisse to restore Newcastle's advantage by slamming home from 12 yards.
Robin van Persie equalised in the 71st minute and after Sammy Ameobi had hit the post for Newcastle, Hernandez ghosted into the visitors' area to sweep home Michael Carrick's pass and secure a potentially crucial victory.
Chelsea were also beneficiaries of City's slip-up, prevailing 1-0 at Norwich City through a 20-yard Juan Mata strike to close to within four points of Roberto Mancini's men with a game in hand.
Tottenham Hotspur broke into the top four by winning 4-0 at Aston Villa.
Queens Park Rangers sank back to the foot of the table after losing 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion, in a game held up by 11 minutes after the Baggies got caught up in traffic en route to the match.
QPR's defeat allowed Reading to climb off the bottom after they drew 0-0 at home to Swansea City.
Rickie Lambert's late penalty cancelled out Dimitar Berbatov's early opener to earn Southampton a 1-1 draw at Fulham.
In the day's late game, Stoke City moved into eighth place with a 3-1 win over Liverpool who are down in 10th.
The match between Arsenal and West Ham was postponed due to a strike on the London Underground transport network.