Manchester United are just one point away from claiming a third successive Premier League title after Michael Carrick’s 86th-minute winner saw the team in red defeat Wigan Athletic 2-1 at The JJB Stadium.
As Carrick let John O’Shea’s pass roll across his body to a left foot poised to deliver the ball into the top corner of Richard Kingson's goal, the midfielder was issuing the last rites to Liverpool's increasingly forlorn chase of the champions.
Hugo Rodallega, a handful for Nemanja Vidic, gave The Latics the lead after he gave the Serb the slip in the first half, but substitute Carlos Tevez struck within three minutes of his second-half introduction and, from there on in, United pressed for the winner which seemed increasingly inevitable.
Steve Bruce had not tasted victory in 11 league matches against his Old Trafford mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, but his team, who had lost all seven league matches against the European champions, gave no shortage of encouragement to Scouse spectators, particularly during the first half.
Antonio Valencia, the player who may well be in a Manchester United the next time these two sides meet, passed up a wonderful opportunity to hit United before the visitors had even got their bearings at The JJB.
Valencia burst through on goal inside the first 90 seconds but, pressurised by Vidic, he stumbled as he attempted to chip Edwin van der Sar.
Wayne Rooney missed an even better chance after Dimitar Berbatov had got away from Titus Bramble. With the goal at his mercy, the England international headed well wide.
Then a wonderful passing move culminated in Cristiano Ronaldo crossing for Carrick six yards out, but the midfielder shot over.
Wigan may have been guilty of standing off their opponents initially, but as the hosts got tighter, they pooh-poohed their recent poor form with a show of mobility and no shortage of might.
Rodallega typified those dual qualities and shot hard and true but straight at Van der Sar, who was also called upon to tip over Charles N’Zogbia’s inswinging free-kick.
Wigan took the lead they had threatened in the 28th minute. Lee Cattermole’s long ball forward saw Rodallega win a tussle with Vidic before burying a left-footed shot beyond Van der Sar at his near post.
Vidic claimed a foul, though what contact there was between the Serb and Rodallega could not be construed as illegal and, as Vidic slipped, Rodallega regained sight of the ball as well as his composure to rifle Wigan ahead.
United’s intricate passing and a delightful flick from Ronaldo ushered in Rooney for another shooting opportunity that he blazed over on the stroke of half-time.
With United’s start to the second half not of the rip-roaring variety, Ferguson wasted little time in introducing Tevez for Anderson, transforming United’s frontline into a four-pronged attack.
Within three minutes of his 58th-minute introduction, the outspoken Argentine produced an oustanding piece of skill to draw his team level.
Carrick’s shot was mishit but Tevez readjusted to turn the ball past the left-hand of Kingson with the use of his right heel. Surprisingly it was United’s first shot on target.
Rodallega remained barely containable for Vidic, but the traffic was increasingly one-way, as United came in droves to the end where their typically impressive away support were housed.
Rooney shot straight at Kingson, while Tevez teed up Ronaldo for a shooting opportunity he should have done better with.
Just when it appeared that United would take only a tentative step towards the title, Carrick strod forward to hit the winner.
Ronaldo and John O’Shea combined down the right and, when the latter passed across the edge of the area, Carrick’s left boot did the rest, delivering the three points which leaves United one away from getting their hands on the Premier League trophy
A draw against Arsenal at Old Trafford on Saturday will suffice.