Manchester United passed what Sir Alex Ferguson dubbed their biggest test of the Barclays Premier League season with a brilliant counter-attacking 3-1 win at Tottenham.
Wayne Rooney's 23rd goal of the campaign and a spectacular double from Ashley Young sealed an ominous smash-and-grab raid at White Hart Lane that moved the champions back to within two points of leaders Manchester City.
Substitute Jermain Defoe netted a consolation for Spurs, who saw Emmanuel Adebayor controversially denied a goal when the game was still scoreless as their 11-year winless run against United stretched to 26 matches.
Tottenham dominated large parts of the game but were lacking in creativity and when given the opportunities, United were simply devastating.
Spurs thought they had taken the lead when Louis Saha's shot flew in off Adebayor but referee Martin Atkinson ruled it out for a handball and from then on, the visitors put the home side to the sword with a display that showed exactly why they are firmly in the hunt for their 20th league title.
Rooney rose to nod home a Young corner on the stroke of half-time and the former Aston Villa man then went on to add two in the second half - the first an acrobatic scissor kick, and the second a world-class drive from 30 yards.
Defoe pulled one back for the hosts with three minutes left but the game had already long gone by that point.
The defeat - Tottenham's first at home since Manchester City thumped them 5-1 in August - effectively ends any marginal hopes the Londoners may have had of clinching their first title since 1961 and they are now only four points ahead of Arsenal ahead of a tough run of fixtures.
United, meanwhile, sit two points behind leaders and bitter local rivals Manchester City and the season looks set to be decided by the showdown between the two next month.