(CNN) -- Javier Hernandez grabbed a dramatic late winner as Manchester United beat Newcastle 4-3 in a pulsating Boxing Day encounter at Old Trafford.
The Mexican's 90th minute strike, combined with a 1-0 defeat for reigning champions Manchester City at Sunderland, left United seven points clear of their neighbors at the top of the table.
He was drafted into the starting line-up in the absence of Wayne Rooney, who was injured in a training session and will be sidelined for up to three weeks with a knee ligament problem.
But United trailed three times to an enterprising Newcastle, who took the lead as early as the fourth minute through James Perch.
Home defender Jonny Evans drew them level in the 25th minute, but three minutes later was involved at the other end in a controversial own goal.
Danny Simpson's shot struck the Northern Irish international and deflected into his home net, but it was initially ruled out because Papiss Cisse was in an offside position.
Referee Mike Dean then consulted with his linesman and reversed the decision, leaving Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson in a furious exchange with officials.
United took until the 58th minute to draw level with Patrice Evra on target again with a low shot, but Newcastle responded with their third goal.
Former United winger Gabriel Obertan set up Cisse to sweep home to give them a 3-2 lead but again it was short lived.
Robin van Persie saw his shot saved by Tim Krul but was on hand to sweep home the rebound.
The points looked to be shared until Michael Carrick found Hernandez with a clever pass and the striker scored on the half volley.
Ferguson was delighted by the fighting spirit showed by his team in what could prove to be key moment in the title race.
"The statement was our performance, that was a championship winning performance," he told Sky Sports.
Meanwhile, City were coming unstuck at Sunderland, with their former player Adam Johnson scoring early in the second half, his shot eluding Joe Hart to creep in.
Chelsea took closer order in third, four points behind Manchester City and with a game in hand, with a 1-0 win at Norwich.
Spanish star Juan Mata scored the only goal of the match for a side fast improving under Rafa Benitez.
They had thrashed Aston Villa 8-0 Sunday and Villa's woes continued in the late kick off as a Gareth Bale hat-trick saw Tottenham Hotspur win 4-0.
Jermain Defoe scored the other goal for Tottenham, who moved back into fourth position with the thumping away win.
Everton also kept up their challenge for a Champions League place and have the same points tally as Tottenham after an earlier 2-1 home win over Wigan.
Second half goals from Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka put them in command before Arouna Kone's late consolation for struggling Wigan.
West Bromwich Albion are also on 33 points in sixth place with a 2-1 win at Queens Park Rangers, who slipped to the bottom as Reading secured a point in a 0-0 home draw with Swansea.
In the late evening match, Stoke continued their fine recent run with a 3-1 win over Liverpool, who had led through an early Steven Gerrard penalty.