And then, in injury time, Javier Hernandez struck a winner to make sure United took full advantage of cross-town rivals Manchester City's loss at Sunderland.
The conditions were against him but after Michael Carrick gifted possession to the visitors cheaply inside his own half, David De Gea should have done much better than meekly parry Demba Ba's skimmer straight to Perch, who slotted in with ease.
United's attempts to force their way back were not convincing but when Van Persie drilled a free-kick into the Newcastle box, Hernandez pounced on the loose ball. The Mexican's shot was blocked by Tim Krul, only for Evans to slide into the empty net.
The debate over what now constitutes offside erupted after Evans turned a shot from United old-boy Danny Simpson past De Gea. As Graham Poll quickly confirmed referee Mike Dean had got it right, it can only be assumed Cisse remained 'non-active' despite pressurising Evans from an offside position.
For United, the spin-off was that the hairdryer treatment sparked a marked improvement and just before the hour Evra hauled them level for a second time when his low shot beat Krul to the bottom corner.
But the hosts went down yet again as Red Devils old-boy Gabriel Obertan streaked down the wing and delivered a perfect cross for Cisse to smash home. Newcastle held this lead for three minutes before Van Persie drove in his 16th goal of the season after Krul had saved his initial shot.
United fury at a handball claim against Fabricio Coloccini that went unheeded was replaced by anguish as both Van Persie and Hernandez went close. De Gea then got away with a near-calamitous misjudgement when he allowed Sammy Ameobi's shot to roll past him, thinking it was going wide, only for it to hit a post and rebound straight back.
Hernandez was denied by Krul at the other end before Van Persie headed over as injury-time approached. Like two heavyweights slugging it out, swinging for all they were worth, their reliance on instinct total, there was one punch left and with it Hernandez knocked Newcastle out.