Wayne Rooney may have been absent as he celebrated his 25th birthday but his presence loomed large as Manchester United's faltering Barclays Premier League title challenge stuttered back into life with a 2-1 victory at Stoke.
Rooney was persuaded this week that Sir Alex Ferguson's men remain the team to beat, but an extraordinary few days at Old Trafford looked set for a miserable finish when Stoke substitute Tuncay hit a sublime 82nd-minute equaliser to cancel out Javier Hernandez's first-half header.
However, summer acquisition Hernandez found time to sweep in a late winner which ended a long wait for an away league victory and closed the gap on leaders Chelsea to five points.
Central to Rooney's push for a move away was a claim that the club, burdened with debt ever since the Glazer family's takeover, could no longer match his ambition by attracting the world's top players.
While that may be true to some extent, Hernandez is looking a more astute purchase by the game as he notched his fourth and fifth goals since joining from Guadalajara for around £7million over the summer.
Facing away from goal, the little Mexican still managed to open the scoring in the 27th minute with the back of his head in what was a fine piece of finishing.
Gary Neville was then incredibly fortunate not to be sent off at the end of the first half when referee Andre Marriner declined to show him a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Matthew Etherington.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis will be understandably furious with the decision, but the fact remains that despite dictating play for large periods the Potters were unable to test Edwin van der Sar once until Tuncay's fine strike.
The Turkey frontman cut inside onto his left foot to sweep a stunning finish over the head of Van der Sar and into the top corner.
And that lack of cutting edge proved crucial when Hernandez reacted quickly to poke in the winner with four minutes left after Patrice Evra's mis-hit shot fell straight into his path