(CNN) -- Manchester United came from behind to deny Liverpool on an emotional day as Anfield paid tribute to the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
Robin van Persie's 81st minute penalty gave Sir Alex Ferguson's men all three points against a Liverpool side which played for most of the game with ten men.
Jonjo Shelvey was shown a straight red card in the 39th minute following a two-footed tackle on Jonny Evans.
And although Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard gave the hosts a 46th minute lead, goals from Rafael and van Persie won it for United.
On a day where the rivalry between England's two most successful clubs was put aside, fans and players of both teams paid their respects to the 96 supporters who died at Hillsborough in 1989.
Shirts, flowers and cards adorned the Shankly Gates by the permanent memorial to the victims who perished 23 years ago.
Both sets of players wore the number 96 as they emerged from the tunnel with Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton presenting former Liverpool striker Ian Rush a bouquet of flowers.
Reds captain Steven Gerrard and his United counterpart Ryan Giggs then released 96 balloons into the Anfield sky.
Fans held up mosaics around the ground as Liverpool's traditional anthem of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' was played.
Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra put aside their personal differences and shook hands in the lead up to kick off.
Liverpool striker Suarez was banned for eight matches by the Football Associaton after racially abusing the Frenchman during a league game at Anfield.
But while the pre-match atmosphere was full of respect, the intense rivalry between the two sides was never far away.
Once the game had started, both sets of fans began to goad each other, with a small section of United fans singing, 'Where's you famous Munich song?'
That was a small blot on an emotional and entertaining afternoon as both teams produced the kind of cut and thrust football that makes these derby games so thrilling.
Liverpool, without a league victory under new manager Brendan Rodgers this season, came out firing on all cylinders as it looked to take the game to United.
Both Gerrard and Suarez had opportunities as the home side dominated possession.
But the game was turned on its head six minutes before the break when referee Mark Halsey showed Shelvey a straight red card.
Down to ten men, the hosts re-grouped at half-time and grabbed the lead within a minute of the restart.
Glen Johnson tricked his way into the United penalty area and picked out the unmarked Gerrard, who volleyed home from close-range.
It was a poignant moment for Gerrard, whose 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was among 96 victims.
That goal sparked an outpouring of emotion from the Kop as the Liverpool players celebrated in front of their supporters.
But their joy was cut short as United hit back almost immediately with Rafael curling home a spectacular equaliser from inside the penalty area.
The visitors continued to make the most of their numerical advantage and were awarded a penalty when Antonio Valencia went down under minimal contact from Johnson.
Van Persie, who missed his last spot kick during the recent win at Southampton, made no mistake this time as he beat Pepe Reina.
Martin Kelly wasted a late chance to equalize for Liverpool as United held out for victory.