Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an 84th-minute header as Manchester United prevented Liverpool from recapturing second place in the Premier League table in a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
Paul Pogba stood to be United's fall guy at Old Trafford after conceding a soft first-half penalty for handball, which James Milner converted, only for Ibrahimovic to save his blushes.
Ibrahimovic's 19th goal of the season extended United's unbeaten league run to seven games, but after winning the previous six, momentum has been lost.
Jose Mourinho's side remain sixth, four points off the Champions League places, while Liverpool rose one place to third, seven points below leaders Chelsea and beneath Tottenham Hotspur on goal difference.
After draws against Sunderland and Plymouth Argyle and a defeat at Southampton, Liverpool have gone four games without victory at the start of a calendar year for the first time since 1993.
But with United five points below them, Jurgen Klopp's men remain the more likely champions.
An abdominal injury to Nathaniel Clyne saw Liverpool's 18-year-old right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold given a full league debut and he had the onerous task of handling the livewire Anthony Martial.
Martial scored a memorable goal against Liverpool on his United debut last season and he fashioned the first opening with a deep cross for the leaping Ibrahimovic, who could only volley wide.
Ibrahimovic gave the visiting fans a heart-in-mouth moment when he chased down Dejan Lovren's weak back-pass, with Simon Mignolet's clearance striking him and looping onto the roof of the net.
United appeared to be taking control and in the 19th minute Henrikh Mkhitaryan bisected the Liverpool defence with a neatly judged pass for Pogba, only for the Frenchman to scuff wide with his left foot.
During a Liverpool corner soon after, Pogba inexplicably leapt with his hands above his head as he defended Milner's set-piece and the Liverpool number seven tucked the ensuing spot-kick past David de Gea.
It was left to Ibrahimovic to ride to United's rescue, the Swede steering a fine header over Mignolet from Antonio Valencia's cross after Marouane Fellaini's header came back off the post.
The noise that Mourinho had called for after United's mid-week League Cup semi-final first-leg win over Hull City duly arrived, but Liverpool withstood the crescendo.