Manchester United inched closer to regaining the Premier League title despite being held to a draw by West Ham United at Upton Park.
Robin van Persie's controversial equaliser 20 minutes from time rescued a point for United as they struggled for long spells to discover the form that has led them to the brink of a 20th top-flight crown.
Ricardo Vaz Te gave West Ham - still looking to make survival mathematically certain - an early lead but Shinji Kagawa's superb run produced a leveller for Antonio Valencia before half-time.
Mohamed Diame's stunning strike then restored West Ham's lead before Van Persie turned in United's second in the 77th minute after Kagawa's deflected shot rebounded off both posts - although replays showed the Dutchman was in an offside position.
United's lead now stands at 13 points after second-placed Manchester City beat relegation-threatened Wigan but this was a performance that smacked more of a stroll towards the finishing line than a triumphant dash.
The fact that the title is now a formality has perhaps taken some of the edge off Sir Alex Ferguson's side but it is only matter of time before they will be champions again.
The extent of United's struggles, at least until a trademark period of late pressure, was summed up by Wayne Rooney, who was desperately poor and could have no complaints when he was substituted with 20 minutes left.
Andy Carroll's failure to establish himself at Liverpool and subsequent injury problems at West Ham have curtailed his England career - but his lively display will have impressed watching England manager Roy Hodgson.
He played a crucial role as West Ham took the lead after 16 minutes. Matt Jarvis escaped from Rio Ferdinand far too easily to find Carroll at the far post and he nodded back for Vaz Te to throw himself forward and score with a diving header from six yards.
West Ham have scored twice in each of their last three home games against Manchester United but have not won any of them.
United's response was subdued but they drew level with the smoothest of equalisers 14 minutes before half-time. Kagawa demonstrated perfect balance and footwork to skip through the Hammers defence and set up a simple sidefoot finish for Valencia.
Carroll had been West Ham's main threat but he infuriated Ferguson moments before the interval when he recklessly launched himself at a corner, taking out Patrice Evra and United keeper David de Gea in the process.
Nothing had been seen of Rooney but he finally made a contribution of some significance right after the restart when his perfect cross found Van Persie, whose header was just behind Phil Jones, however, meaning the defender was unable to make a proper connection.
Having escaped punishment for the earlier incident, Carroll was then booked by referee Lee Probert for a harmless looking tangle with De Gea after the keeper collected a cross.
Carroll then gave De Gea another anxious moment, this time with a long-range dipping effort that went into the side netting.
West Ham were playing with far more purpose at this stage and were rewarded in spectacular style with a second goal after 55 minutes. Diame, a real talent, eluded Rooney with embarrassing ease before firing a low, angled drive beyond De Gea from 20 yards.
Rooney almost snatched another equaliser when Jussi Jaaskelainen fumbled his half-hit shot from a corner but Gary O'Neil was on the line to rescue West Ham's veteran keeper.
The Finn was in more accomplished action to turn Van Persie's header over the top before Ferguson made his first change with 20 minutes remaining.
Despite the fact that United were trailing, it was little surprise that Rooney was the man replaced by Ryan Giggs after a performance lacking in intensity and quality.
As ever with United, even when below their best they possess a threat and so it proved again as they restored parity once more with 13 minutes left. Kawaga's shot from the edge of the area deflected off James Collins and hit both posts before Van Persie turned in from a very tight angle.
West Ham United
- 22 Jaaskelainen
- 02 Reid
- 17 O'Brien
- 19 Collins
- 20 Demel
- 04 Nolan (Taylor - 82' )
- 07 Jarvis
- 21 Diame (Collison - 82' )
- 32 O'Neil (Noble - 67' )
- 08 Carroll Booked
- 12 Vaz Te
- 13 Henderson
- 18 Pogatetz
- 10 Collison
- 14 Taylor
- 16 Noble
- 09 C Cole
- 11 Maiga
- 01 De Gea
- 02 Rafael
- 03 Evra
- 04 Jones
- 05 Ferdinand
- 15 Vidic
- 07 Valencia
- 16 Carrick
- 26 Kagawa (Hernandez - 79' )
- 10 Rooney (Giggs - 71' )
- 20 Van Persie
- 40 Amos
- 06 Evans
- 11 Giggs
- 17 Nani
- 23 Cleverley
- 14 Hernandez
- 19 Welbeck
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee brings the game to a close.90:00 +3:18
Robin van Persie concedes a free kick for a foul on Winston Reid. James Collins takes the direct free kick.90:00 +1:49
Shot from just outside the penalty box by Matthew Taylor misses to the left of the target.90:00 +0:10
Corner taken by Robin van Persie from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Andy Carroll.85:59
Long distance shot from Robin van Persie misses to the left of the net.85:02
Javier Hernandez takes a shot. Blocked by James Collins.83:43
Foul by Rafael Da Silva on Ricardo Vaz Te, free kick awarded. James Collins restarts play with the free kick.83:09
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie played to the near post, Jack Collison manages to make a clearance.81:31 Substitution
Substitution Jack Collison on for Mohamed Diame.81:31 Substitution
Substitution Matthew Taylor replaces Kevin Nolan.81:03
Javier Hernandez takes a shot. Save by Jussi Jaaskelainen.80:00
Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save made by Jussi Jaaskelainen.78:26 Substitution
Substitution Shinji Kagawa goes off and Javier Hernandez comes on.76:21
Shinji Kagawa provided the assist for the goal.76:21 Goal scored
Goal! - Robin van Persie - West Ham 2 - 2 Man Utd A goal is scored by Robin van Persie from inside the six-yard box high into the middle of the goal. West Ham 2-2 Man Utd.76:17
Shinji Kagawa has an effort at goal from the just inside the penalty box hitting the post.70:29 Substitution
Substitution Wayne Rooney goes off and Ryan Giggs comes on.70:15
Rafael Da Silva takes a shot from just inside the penalty box which clears the crossbar.68:54
Corner from the right by-line taken by Robin van Persie, James Collins manages to make a clearance.68:42
Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save by David De Gea.
Substitution Gary O'Neil goes off and Mark Noble comes on.62:07
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line, Wayne Rooney takes a shot. Clearance made by Gary O'Neil.60:28
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Michael Carrick by Mohamed Diame. Michael Carrick takes the direct free kick.58:57
Robin van Persie is caught offside. Jussi Jaaskelainen restarts play with the free kick.58:06
Mohamed Diame fouled by Phil Jones, the ref awards a free kick. Jussi Jaaskelainen takes the direct free kick.54:10
Assist by Guy Demel.54:10 Goal scored
Goal! - Mohamed Diame - West Ham 2 - 1 Man Utd Mohamed Diame finds the back of the net with a goal from just outside the box to the bottom left corner of the goal. West Ham 2-1 Man Utd.53:31
Foul by Patrice Evra on Ricardo Vaz Te, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by James Collins.51:07
Shot from a long way out by Andy Carroll goes wide of the left-hand post.49:48 Booking
Booking Andy Carroll is shown a yellow card for dissent.49:23
Free kick awarded for a foul by Andy Carroll on David De Gea. David De Gea takes the free kick.48:03
Kevin Nolan challenges Nemanja Vidic unfairly and gives away a free kick. David De Gea takes the free kick.47:33
Robin van Persie concedes a free kick for a foul on Winston Reid. James Collins takes the direct free kick.46:31
Unfair challenge on Michael Carrick by Andy Carroll results in a free kick. Rio Ferdinand takes the free kick.45:36
Phil Jones takes a shot. Winston Reid gets a block in.45:01
The referee blows his whistle to start the second half.45:00 +3:09 Half time
Half Time The referee blows for half time.45:00 +0:10
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Gary O'Neil from the left by-line, David De Gea makes a save. Andy Carroll challenges David De Gea unfairly and gives away a free kick. David De Gea restarts play with the free kick.44:26
Wayne Rooney concedes a free kick for a foul on Mohamed Diame. James Collins takes the direct free kick.41:47
Andy Carroll takes a shot. Comfortable save by David De Gea.41:15
Michael Carrick takes a shot. Blocked by Guy Demel.34:47
Long range shot from Ricardo Vaz Te misses to the left of the target.33:37
Effort from deep inside the area by Mohamed Diame misses to the left of the target.32:07
Close range headed effort by Robin van Persie goes wide of the left-hand post.30:20
Shinji Kagawa provided the assist for the goal.30:20 Goal scored
Goal! - Antonio Valencia - West Ham 1 - 1 Man Utd Antonio Valencia finds the back of the net with a goal from close range low into the middle of the goal. West Ham 1-1 Man Utd.28:50
Kevin Nolan concedes a free kick for a foul on Wayne Rooney. Direct free kick taken by Rio Ferdinand.26:40
Matthew Jarvis is ruled offside. Direct free kick taken by Michael Carrick.23:47
Foul by Antonio Valencia on Joey O'Brien, free kick awarded. James Collins takes the free kick.21:15
Wayne Rooney has an effort at goal from outside the penalty area missing to the wide left of the goal.20:52
Mohamed Diame challenges Michael Carrick unfairly and gives away a free kick. Rio Ferdinand takes the direct free kick.20:23
Shinji Kagawa takes a shot. James Collins gets a block in.16:00
Andy Carroll provided the assist for the goal.16:00 Goal scored
Goal! - Ricardo Vaz Te - West Ham 1 - 0 Man Utd Ricardo Vaz Te finds the net with a headed goal from close range. West Ham 1-0 Man Utd.12:48
Outswinging corner taken by Gary O'Neil, Close range headed effort by James Collins clears the crossbar.10:48
Foul by Kevin Nolan on Phil Jones, free kick awarded. David De Gea restarts play with the free kick.9:13
Robin van Persie takes the inswinging corner, Guy Demel makes a clearance.8:30
Free kick awarded for a foul by Kevin Nolan on Phil Jones. Direct free kick taken by Rio Ferdinand.4:56
Andy Carroll has an effort at goal from just inside the box that misses to the right of the goal.1:36
Matthew Jarvis takes a shot. Blocked by Rafael Da Silva.0:00
The referee gets the match started.
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