By Abhishek Mehrotra
And after 45 minutes of football, City fans could have been forgiven for thinking they were about to be comprehensively beaten, after United had raced a three-goal lead.
However, Roberto Mancini's men hit back with two goals of their own in the second half, but it wasn't enough in the end as United held on for the victory, despite being on the receiving end of an almighty scare.
ESPNSTAR.com looks at the major talking points and highlights from yet another nail-biting encounter between two sides whose rivalry is taking on bigger and better proportions with every passing day.
The red card that wasn't
It's a pity that yet another high-profile encounter was blighted by a poor refereeing decision. Vincent Kompany's tackle on Nani was crude, to be sure, but there was no way it merited a red-card. Chris Foy thought otherwise, sending the Belgian on his way and diluting what was promising to be a titanic encounter.
Even Nani, who you'd expect to go down like a soggy sack of potatoes if he felt he was being fouled, didn't make a fuss about Kompany's challenge, which is why the gasp when Foy brandished red was audible around the stadium.
The penalty that was
After sending Kompany off, Foy had been making things from bad to worse for himself, needlessly booking Danny Welbeck for a clumsy stumble that brought down Aleksandar Kolarov and then showing Nani a yellow for a few verbal barbs, but at least he got the penalty decision absolutely correct.
Welbeck was too quick for Kolarov inside the area and when the Serbian's ill-timed tackle brought down the United youngster, Foy immediately pointed to the spot. The home crowd may have booed, but that was more likely from frustration than any disagreement with the decision itself.
The return of the Prince
Prior to Foy's atrocious decision, the biggest talking point had been the sensational return of Paul Scholes to the United bench a few months after supposedly hanging up his boots for good. With United's midfield more threadbare than an old sweater, the 37-year-old decided to answer the club's bugle call.
Within a few minutes of coming on though, he must have been wondering if it had been a wise choice. A trademark mistimed tackle escaped punishment, but an underhit pass a few moments later allowed James Milner to nip away with the ball and square it to Sergio Aguero, who tapped in at the second time of asking. If it's any consolation though, Opta informs that Scholes made more passes in 30 minutes (71 with 97% accuracy) than any City player in the entire game.
Nasri's descent into mediocrity
Samir Nasri had gone to City in the hope of, in his own words, winning trophies. He may have set his sights high, but his own form seems to have dipped alarmingly after a sparkling start at Eastlands.
Handed a rare start by Roberto Mancini, Nasri was a virtual spectator from the beginning. Unable to help out a lonely Aguero at the top or bail out an under-pressure defence at the back, the Frenchman was finally subbed, much to his and the fans' relief, by Mancini after 82 torturous minutes.
A mixed day out for Kolarov
Aleksandar Kolarov must have felt like had had stepped onto the sets of "Paranormal Activity 3", so nightmarish was the first half for him. Antonio Valencia had his number throughout the opening 45 minutes, and things got even more dire when the left-back gave a penalty by fouling Welbeck inside the area.
Quick redemption was forthcoming though. The Serb lined up a free-kick right after the interval, and blasted the ball in with that bazooka of a left foot. City had one goal back, and there was hope for the defending champions.
Lindegaard's flaps his way to disaster. Almost.
David de Gea has got his fair share of criticism this season, but on the evidence of Sunday's display from Anders Lindegaard, he has nothing to fear. The Danish keeper spilled Aguero's strike which allowed the Argentinean a follow-up shot from two yards out and gave City real hope of making an incredible comeback. And Lindegaard almost allowed that to happen as well, flapping at a corner late into injury time and letting the ball fall into a mess of players inside the area.
Luckily for him United managed to get the ball away before a blue shirt could pounce. All in all, a poor outing in a high-stakes game for United's number two.
City remain title favourites
They may have shockingly conceded three within the first 45 minutes, but City's second-half surge showed this team is more than just a bunch of prima donnas. There's steel in this side and every inch of it will be needed during the crucial upcoming months. In fact, Mancini immediately spoke of his belief that City can go on to win the league in the immediate aftermath of the match.
For United, the result is a much-needed fillip after two unlikely defeats; but their problems at the back remain - Rio Ferdinand was another who had a very poor game - and the manner in which they almost let City back into the game in the second-half must have worried Ferguson.
He will have been thrilled though by the performance of Danny Welbeck, who was quite superb - converting a half-chance into a brilliant goal and then winning the penalty to put the game beyond the Citizens' reach. His tracking back to help out the defence as City threw men forward was the mark of a man willing to put in the hard yards. A star in the making, if ever there was one.