Manchester United extended their lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League to five points as late goals from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young gave them victory at Blackburn.
United struggled to make the breakthrough that would see them open up a potentially decisive gap over their rivals from across the city.
But a trademark late surge brought a win that ensures Sir Alex Ferguson's side take a firm grip on the pursuit of the title with seven games to go.
In contrast Rovers, who battled gallantly for so long and were denied by the athleticism of United keeper David de Gea in the first half, now drop back into the bottom three as the scrap to escape relegation increases in intensity.
The visitors were not at their best but the job was done and explosive finishes, first from the outstanding Valencia and from substitute Young five minutes later, demonstrated the quality required at these defining moments of the season.
The reigning champions confirmed a record 19th title with a draw at Ewood Park last season - and the reaction from their supporters when referee Howard Webb brought matters to a conclusion suggested they believe a hugely significant step has been taken towards number 20.
DID YOU KNOW?
Manchester United have now taken 31 points from a possible 33 since losing at Newcastle in January
United applied the early pressure with Javier Hernandez having early opportunities to make the breakthrough as Blackburn afforded the leaders too much time and space.
The Mexican was off target after being picked out brilliantly by Wayne Rooney and then struck the woodwork at the near post from Valencia's cross, with the hosts' goalkeeper Paul Robinson clutching the rebound gratefully.
Rovers were sitting deep as United controlled possession, but broke out after 17 minutes and the dangerous Junior Hoilett tested De Gea with a shot from 20 yards that the keeper clawed away.
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Valencia's delivery was a constant danger - and he was the provider again six minutes before the interval, only for Phil Jones to squander the chance to strike against his former club by heading wastefully wide at the far post.
If United needed any warning that there was still work to be done, the hosts provided it as De Gea was forced into two fines saves in the closing moments of the half.
The Spaniard once again showed great reflexes to make a one-handed save from Marcus Olsson, then turn Grant Hanley's header over from the resulting corner.
It was Robinson's turn to excel after the break as he saved well from Rooney's free-kick and Rafael - but De Gea then enjoyed a moment of good fortune.
He fumbled Morten Gamst Pedersen's free-kick, but there was no home attacker on hand to take advantage.
Pedersen then had the ball in the net but only after it had gone out of play before Steven Nzonzi was able to get his cross in.
Ferguson had made two quickfire substitutions in an attempt to end Rovers' resistance, with Danny Welbeck and Ryan Giggs replacing Hernandez and Jones.
And the deadlock was finally broken with nine minutes left as Valencia cut in from the right before unleashing a powerful angled drive that went close to Robinson but carried too much power for the former England keeper to save.
Rovers' spirits sagged visibly and Young, on for Paul Scholes, settled the destination of the points with a fine turn and precise finish from the edge of the area to leave United and their supporters celebrating at the final whistle.
- 01 Robinson
- 03 Mn Olsson
- 16 Dann
- 18 Orr
- 31 Hanley Booked
- 12 Pedersen
- 15 Nzonzi
- 21 Ms Olsson
- 35 Lowe
- 23 Hoilett
- 24 Yakubu
- 13 Bunn
- 39 Henley
- 08 Dunn
- 10 Formica
- 14 Petrovic
- 09 Modeste
- 20 Rochina
- 01 De Gea
- 03 Evra
- 04 Jones (Giggs - 63' )
- 05 Ferdinand
- 06 Evans
- 21 Rafael
- 16 Carrick
- 22 Scholes (Young - 79' )
- 25 Valencia Booked
- 10 Rooney
- 14 Hernandez (Welbeck - 61' )
- 40 Amos
- 12 Smalling
- 11 Giggs
- 13 Park Ji-sung
- 18 Young
- 42 Pogba
- 19 Welbeck
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee blows for the end of the match.86:17
Marcus Olsson delivers the ball, Morten Gamst Pedersen produces a left-footed shot from the edge of the area and misses to the left of the goal.85:01
Antonio Valencia provided the assist for the goal.85:01 Goal scored
Goal! - Ashley Young - Blackburn 0 - 2 Man Utd Ashley Young grabs a goal from just outside the box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Blackburn 0-2 Man Utd.80:48
Rafael Da Silva provided the assist for the goal.80:48 Goal scored
Goal! - Antonio Valencia - Blackburn 0 - 1 Man Utd Antonio Valencia finds the back of the net with a goal from the edge of the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Blackburn 0-1 Man Utd.80:30
The ball is sent over by Ryan Giggs, Grant Hanley makes a clearance.79:53
The ball is sent over by Rafael Da Silva, Grant Hanley manages to make a clearance.79:22
Shot from close range by Ayegbeni Yakubu misses to the left of the target.78:44 Substitution
Substitution Ashley Young replaces Paul Scholes.78:34
The ball is delivered by Morten Gamst Pedersen, clearance made by Rafael Da Silva.76:55
Marcus Olsson crosses the ball, clearance made by Rio Ferdinand.76:29
A cross is delivered by Wayne Rooney, Paul Robinson makes a comfortable save.75:52
Ryan Giggs crosses the ball, Martin Olsson manages to make a clearance. Corner taken right-footed by Antonio Valencia to the near post, Steven Nzonzi makes a clearance.75:42
Antonio Valencia delivers the ball, clearance made by Bradley Orr.73:20
Ryan Giggs crosses the ball, clearance by Grant Hanley.71:39
Antonio Valencia takes a shot. Blocked by Morten Gamst Pedersen.71:11
Ryan Giggs delivers the ball, clearance by Bradley Orr. Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Wayne Rooney, clearance by Grant Hanley.70:02
Foul by David Hoilett on Danny Welbeck, free kick awarded. Wayne Rooney delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from right channel, Martin Olsson makes a clearance.69:50
Antonio Valencia sends in a cross, Scott Dann makes a clearance.
Ayegbeni Yakubu is penalised for a handball. Free kick taken by Paul Scholes.67:15
Centre by Antonio Valencia, Martin Olsson gets a block in. Inswinging corner taken by Ryan Giggs from the right by-line played to the near post, Michael Carrick produces a header from close range which goes wide of the left-hand post.66:45
Michael Carrick produces a cross. The ball is sent over by Ryan Giggs.66:12
The ball is delivered by Patrice Evra, blocked by Scott Dann. Corner taken left-footed by Ryan Giggs from the left by-line, clearance made by Grant Hanley.64:14
Patrice Evra crosses the ball.62:38 Substitution
Substitution Phil Jones leaves the field to be replaced by Ryan Giggs.61:36
Centre by David Hoilett.60:18
Morten Gamst Pedersen shoots direct from the free kick, save by David De Gea.60:18 Substitution
Substitution (Man Utd) makes a substitution, with Danny Welbeck coming on for Javier Hernandez.60:18
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ayegbeni Yakubu by Paul Scholes.59:54
The ball is crossed by Antonio Valencia, clearance by Jason Lowe.59:02
Effort on goal by Ayegbeni Yakubu from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.58:30
Shot from just outside the area by Ayegbeni Yakubu misses to the left of the target.57:04
Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Antonio Valencia.56:31
Shot by Rafael Da Silva. Save made by Paul Robinson. Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Antonio Valencia, clearance by Grant Hanley.56:12
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Antonio Valencia from the right by-line, Scott Dann makes a clearance.53:49
Direct strike on goal from the free kick comes in from Wayne Rooney, save by Paul Robinson. Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Antonio Valencia from the right by-line to the near post, clearance by Grant Hanley.53:49 Booking
Booking Booking for Grant Hanley for unsporting behaviour.53:43
Grant Hanley challenges Paul Scholes unfairly and gives away a free kick.53:00
Antonio Valencia crosses the ball.52:05
Wayne Rooney has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box missing to the wide left of the goal.51:51
The ball is delivered by Patrice Evra, Grant Hanley makes a clearance.51:05
Phil Jones sends in a cross, clearance made by Scott Dann.49:32
Antonio Valencia crosses the ball, Bradley Orr manages to make a clearance.48:35
The ball is delivered by Morten Gamst Pedersen, Rio Ferdinand makes a clearance. Centre by Bradley Orr, Scott Dann has a headed effort at goal from just inside the penalty area that misses to the left of the goal.48:04
Centre by Ayegbeni Yakubu, blocked by Rio Ferdinand.45:01
The match restarts for the second half.45:00 +1:28 Half time
Half Time The half-time whistle blows.45:00 +0:01
Shot by Marcus Olsson. Save by David De Gea. Corner taken left-footed by Morten Gamst Pedersen from the left by-line, Grant Hanley takes a shot. Save by David De Gea. Outswinging corner taken by Morten Gamst Pedersen, clearance by Patrice Evra.44:22
David Hoilett takes a shot. Blocked by Jonathan Evans.43:23
Handball by Jason Lowe. Michael Carrick takes the direct free kick.41:49
Free kick awarded for a foul by Paul Scholes on Steven Nzonzi. Free kick taken by Paul Robinson.41:02
The ball is swung over by Michael Carrick, Grant Hanley gets a block in. Outswinging corner taken by Antonio Valencia from the right by-line, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Patrice Evra misses to the left of the goal. Michael Carrick crosses the ball, clearance made by Morten Gamst Pedersen.40:45
Rafael Da Silva crosses the ball, Grant Hanley manages to make a clearance.39:58
Morten Gamst Pedersen gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Javier Hernandez. Paul Scholes restarts play with the free kick.39:10
Free kick crossed left-footed by Morten Gamst Pedersen from left wing, Javier Hernandez gets a block in.39:10 Booking
Booking Antonio Valencia is shown a yellow card.39:01
Unfair challenge on Martin Olsson by Antonio Valencia results in a free kick.38:45
The ball is sent over by Antonio Valencia, clearance made by Jason Lowe.37:29
Centre by Rafael Da Silva, Paul Robinson makes a save.36:49
Steven Nzonzi concedes a free kick for a foul on Phil Jones. Direct free kick taken by Michael Carrick.36:12
Patrice Evra gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Morten Gamst Pedersen. Paul Robinson takes the free kick.35:04
Rafael Da Silva sends in a cross, save made by Paul Robinson.34:53
Antonio Valencia produces a cross, blocked by Martin Olsson.33:58
Antonio Valencia crosses the ball, Phil Jones has a headed effort at goal from close range which goes wide of the left-hand upright.32:36
Antonio Valencia delivers the ball, Scott Dann makes a clearance.31:41
Marcus Olsson takes a shot. Jonathan Evans manages to make a clearance.29:54
The ball is swung over by Patrice Evra, Martin Olsson makes a clearance. Corner taken by Antonio Valencia, Jonathan Evans takes a shot. Save made by Paul Robinson.28:09
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Martin Olsson by Phil Jones. Paul Robinson takes the free kick.25:43
The ball is sent over by Wayne Rooney, Scott Dann manages to make a clearance.23:45
The assistant referee signals for offside against Antonio Valencia. Indirect free kick taken by Paul Robinson.23:18
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Wayne Rooney by Jason Lowe. Antonio Valencia restarts play with the free kick.20:29
A cross is delivered by Morten Gamst Pedersen, clearance made by Jonathan Evans.20:01
The ball is swung over by Patrice Evra, Scott Dann makes a clearance.17:43
The referee blows for offside. Free kick taken by Rio Ferdinand.17:06
Shot by David Hoilett. Save made by David De Gea.16:02
Centre by Antonio Valencia, Bradley Orr makes a clearance.14:06
Antonio Valencia delivers the ball, Scott Dann makes a clearance.13:07
Free kick awarded for a foul by Marcus Olsson on Phil Jones. Free kick taken by Jonathan Evans.11:33
Michael Carrick produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty area that goes harmlessly over the target.10:40
Javier Hernandez takes a shot. Save by Paul Robinson.10:08
Wayne Rooney takes a shot. Blocked by Scott Dann.7:30
The ball is sent over by Phil Jones.7:00
Foul by Morten Gamst Pedersen on Phil Jones, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Michael Carrick.5:40
Effort from deep inside the area by Javier Hernandez misses to the right of the goal.5:09
Ayegbeni Yakubu concedes a free kick for a foul on Rio Ferdinand. Direct free kick taken by Rio Ferdinand.4:34
A cross is delivered by Martin Olsson.3:57
A cross is delivered by Marcus Olsson. Bradley Orr crosses the ball, clearance made by Rafael Da Silva.1:30
Phil Jones sends in a cross.0:24
The ball is swung over by Antonio Valencia, clearance made by Scott Dann.0:00
The game gets underway.
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