Wayne Rooney broke Manchester United's all-time scoring record in dramatic fashion, bending home a stunning 250th goal to secure a hard-fought draw at Stoke deep in stoppage time.
Just as the match looked to be slipping through United's fingers at the bet365 Stadium, the 31-year-old stepped up - like he has done so many times since joining from Everton in 2004 - to land a crucial blow.
Rooney's outstanding free-kick sent the visiting support wild, cancelling out Juan Mata's first-half own goal and securing a 1-1 draw as the captain moved clear as United's all-time top scorer in front of Sir Bobby Charlton.
The forward is not unequivocally loved like the man he has usurped as United's all-time top scorer, but his impact at the club is undeniable.
Rooney and United had looked set to return home frustrated, with the captain watching from the bench as Stoke went ahead through Mata's own goal in a first half in which they failed to muster a shot on target.
Jose Mourinho would call upon the forward in the 67th minute but there looked to be no way past well-drilled Stoke, with last-ditch defending, fine goalkeeping from Lee Grant and wayward finishing putting United's unbeaten run in all competitions in jeopardy.
However, United did not give up and Rooney bent home a fine free-kick from an acute angle to the delight of the visiting supporters and the watching Charlton, with the undefeated streak now standing at 17 matches.
It was a thrilling end to a match that looked to be going Stoke's way after such a sloppy start by United.
The Stoke supporters in the bet365 Stadium crowd went through a range of emotions, starting with anger that Marko Arnautovic was booked moments after Chris Smalling avoided a yellow card before relief as Grant's spill of the free-kick came to nothing.
In the 19th minute came collective Stoke joy as United were caught cold.
A long kick was flicked on by Peter Crouch and Stoke attacked down the left, with Arnautovic's lay-off finding Erik Pieters to hit a fizzing cross that deflected off Mata and past David de Gea.
Spaniard Mata had lost the full-back as the hosts raced forward and then wasted a gilt-edged chance to atone for Stoke's opener.
Paul Pogba played a lovely clipped ball over the hosts' backline to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, only for his weighted cross to somehow be scooped over by Mata at the far post.
United were at that stage in the ascendancy and pushed hard for a first-half equaliser, only to be denied by a familiar foe.
Grant put in a man-of-the-match display at Old Trafford and was again frustrating Mourinho's men, comfortably deal with a Marouane Fellaini header and then tipping over the Belgian's volley.
A strong one-handed reaction save denied Pogba from the resulting corner as the first half ended with Stoke being ahead without getting a single shot on target.
A more assertive United emerged from half-time but it was Crouch, searching for his 100th Premier League goal, who was first to threaten, aiming an audacious volley wide.
Marcus Rashford was brought on for Fellaini in a bid to add extra bite to a United side who saw penalty appeals waved away by referee Mark Clattenburg after a Mata strike ricocheted off Pieters' arm.
Tempers were beginning to fray as Stoke continued to frustrate United, with Xherdan Shaqiri bringing a first save out of De Gea with a speculative effort on a rare voyage forward in the 65th minute.
Rooney was the next roll of the dice as he came on in place of the unusually poor Mata, but Stoke were continuing to frustrate the visitors.
Pogba had a shot blocked and Rashford bent a chance just wide, with the former then fizzing a shot flew just wide of Grant's goal.
Rooney attempted a close-range header as the United onslaught continued, while handball appeals against Ryan Shawcross were ignored.
Substitute Jesse Lingard rattled the crossbar in the closing moments as the 2,557 visiting fans looked set to go home disappointed.
Rooney had other ideas, though.
Taking aim from an acute angle on the left, he impressively directed home to the unbridled joy of team-mates and fans.