Wayne Rooney started on the bench as Manchester United’s Barclays Premier League title chances took yet another blow after they were held to a shock 2-2 draw against West Brom at Old Trafford.
Javier Hernandez was handed his second league start as Ferguson chose to leave Rooney on the bench after he contradicted his manager over an apparent ankle injury while on England duty in midweek.
The 24-year-old watched on as the Mexican forward pounced quickly to tap home after Scott Carson spilled Nani’s fifth-minute free-kick.
The Portuguese then made no mistake from 12 yards to give United a 2-0 half-time lead but the Baggies, who had beaten Arsenal at the Emirates last month, hit back with two quickfire second-half goals.
First Chris Brunt’s free-kick went in off Patrice Evra before Somen Tchoyi tapped in from six yards after Edwin van der Saar dropped a Brunt cross under no pressure.
The result means the Red Devils stay in third but could find themselves one place lower if Manchester City beat Blackpool.
Nicolas Anelka was denied a dramatic late winner by the woodwork as Aston Villa maintained their impressive home record with a 0-0 draw against table-toppers Chelsea.
Anelka could have earned the Blues only a second league win in their last 12 visits to Villa Park but his header from Ashley Cole’s header bounced up and against the crossbar in the last minute of normal time.
It would have been rough justice on Villa who had done enough to earn at least a share of the spoils – and should themselves have won the game in injury time as Nigel Reo-Coker shot wide when one-on-one with Petr Cech.
Arsenal are now their nearest challengers but they had to come from behind to get back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Birmingham at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners looked to be heading towards a damaging third successive defeat when Nikola Zigic gave Birmingham a shock lead with a 33rd-minute header.
But Samir Nasri’s controversial penalty, which came after Marouane Chamakh went down under little pressure from Scott Dann, and a strike from the Moroccan, sealed the victory which moves Arsene Wenger’s side into second. Jack Wilshere was dismissed for a straight red at the death.
Mark Noble saved Robert Green’s blushes as he scored a second-half penalty to salvage a 1-1 draw for West Ham against relegation rivals Wolves at Molineux.
Green, who was recalled by England manager Fabio Capello last week, had shown signs of recovery from his horrendous blunder at the World Cup in the Hammers’ previous two matches, but his failure to clear a routine corner handed Matt Jarvis an easy tap-in to put Mick McCarthy’s side ahead.
Noble then levelled from the spot after Kevin Foley fouled Victor Obinna in the Wolves box to ensure that rock bottom Hammers remain level on points with the Midlanders.
Tom Huddlestone’s controversial second-half strike ended Fulham’s unbeaten record as Tottenham ran out 2-1 winners at Craven Cottage.
Roman Pavlyuchenko tapped in to restore parity in the 31st minute after Diomansy Kamara’s first of the season had put Fulham ahead just seconds earlier.
Fulham pushed for a winner but the game was decided by Huddlestone’s 30-yard strike, which the Cottagers disputed after William Gallas appeared to be in an offside position as the ball went in.
A Fabricio Coloccini goal deep into injury time gave Newcastle a 2-2 draw against Wigan at St James’ Park.
Charles N’Zogbia, who joined the Latics from Newcastle last year, headed Wigan ahead in the 22nd minute before he slammed a left-foot screamer past Tim Krul to make it 2-0 a minute later.
Substitute Shola Ameobi scored his first league goal of the season to put Chris Hughton’s side back in it before Argentina centre-half Coloccini snatched a point right at the end.
Substitute Ivan Klasnic’s strike two minutes into injury time gave Bolton a 2-1 win over Stoke at the Reebok Stadium.
Rory Delap’s first goal in over a year had looked to have given Stoke a creditable 1-1 draw after Lee Chung-yong’s 25-yard strike put Trotters ahead.
But Klasnic tapped in from six yards before being sent off for a second yellow card in the dying seconds.