A Robin van Persie hat-trick helped Manchester United stage an incredible late comeback at Southampton and ensured Sir Alex Ferguson's 1,000th league game at the helm ended in a 3-2 victory.
Rickie Lambert headed the hosts in front after 16 minutes, although van Persie levelled seven minutes later with a fine strike.
Nathaniel Clyne’s inopportune slip cost Saints but the home side enjoyed their own dose of good fortune 10 minutes into the second half as Patrice Evra fell, allowing Morgan Schneiderlin to head in.
Saints would have been pegged back once again, though, had it not have been for goalkeeper Kelvin Davis, who saved a cheeky penalty attempt by Van Persie.
The Netherlands international looked destined for a bad afternoon only to provide a late double salvo inside the final three minutes that turned the game on its head and saw him rack up his 100th Barclays Premier League goal.
Heading into the game, much of the talk was about Ferguson's decision to play Anders Lindegaard instead of regular number one goalkeeper David de Gea.
Rio Ferdinand was also a notable inclusion as he made his first appearance of the season, partnering Nemanja Vidic in defence for the first time since a 2-1 defeat to Basel last December.
The occasion seemed to get the better of the hosts in the opening exchanges and in the sixth minute Van Persie fired a volley just wide.
The attempt awoke Southampton from their slumber and they were soon pushing forward, with Adam Lallana shooting wide after meeting a clever low corner from Danny Fox.
Saints were getting a lot of joy down the right flank and made the most of it as Jason Puncheon sent a hanging cross to the back post, which Rafael failed to deal with and Lambert headed past Lindegaard.
Southampton rode out a United onslaught but could not prevent them drawing level in the 23rd minute.
Antonio Valencia's cross from the right looked like it would be intercepted by Clyne but the Saints right-back slipped and Van Persie took full advantage, controlling with aplomb before firing home.
It was not all United, though, as Lambert fired just wide and then both James Ward-Prowse and Lallana came close with long-range efforts.
Ten minutes after the re-start it was Evra's turn to lose his footing and Schneiderlin nodded home a Lambert cross unopposed to the delight of the vast majority of those inside St Mary's.
It started a spell of dominance for the hosts as Puncheon forced Lindegaard into a smart save at the near post, before Rafael cleared under pressure from Lambert and Lallana had an effort blocked.
Only Ferdinand prevented Ward-Prowse slotting home a Lambert cross, before Paul Scholes and Nani came on as Ferguson looked to turn the tables on the hosts.
After Van Persie saw an effort saved by Davis, the Saints goalkeeper sent a terrible miskick straight to substitute Nani on the left. The ball was worked into the box and Jos Hooiveld conceded a penalty for a sliding challenge on the former Arsenal striker.
Van Persie took the resulting penalty but his chip was saved by Davis, much to the delight of the home faithful.
United kept pressing forward and Javier Hernandez headed across the face of goal in the dying minutes, before being denied by a late Clyne tackle.
With three minutes left Ferdinand's header came back off the post and Van Persie poached an equaliser from close range.
The comeback was completed in stoppage time as Van Persie rose to glance in Nani's cross to ensure the three points would go back to Lancashire.
|15 Sep 2012||v Arsenal (A)|
|22 Sep 2012||v Aston Villa (H)|
|29 Sep 2012||v Everton (A)|
|07 Oct 2012||v Fulham (H)|
|20 Oct 2012||v West Ham (A)|
|28 Oct 2012||v Spurs (H)|