Paul Scholes' first Old Trafford goal for almost two years set Manchester United up for a valuable 3-0 Premier League win over Bolton.
On only his second appearance since his retirement U-turn, the 37-year-old tapped home Wayne Rooney's cross-shot at the far-post in first-half stoppage time to give the hosts a priceless lead after Rooney had seen his penalty saved by Adam Bogdan.
After a frustrating second-half, Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick eventually sealed victory late on, ensuring United now only trail neighbours Manchester City, who do not play until Monday, on goal difference.
After a couple of long-range first half shots, Scholes saved the drama until first-half stoppage time.
Having peeled away to the far post, he was perfectly placed to turn home a Rooney cross-shot, which Danny Welbeck had failed to get a touch to.
Bolton wasted an excellent opportunity to equalise straight after the restart when United's defence, not for the first time, got themselves into a tangle. The ball found its way to David Ngog but, with an unmarked Martin Petrov screaming for a lay-off, the former Liverpool man hit his shot high.
United's second arrived 15 minutes from time, with Welbeck prodding his eighth goal of the season beyond Bogdan after reaching Rooney's lay-off ahead of Sam Ricketts.
The striker took a kick on the back of the leg for his pains and had to be replaced by Javier Hernandez.
But it failed to interrupt the hosts' momentum and, after striding onto Ryan Giggs' pass, Carrick curled a superb left-footed shot past Bogdan from 25 yards.
After successive defeats, it was just what United needed as a confidence booster ahead of a tough sequence of fixtures, starting at Arsenal next weekend, which are likely to determine their chances of retaining the title.