Tuesday evening ultimately proved to be a fantastic night for the city of Manchester as Sergio Aguero's last-gasp rescue act ensured both City and United picked up their first victories in this season's Champions League competition.
In the case of Manchester City, their 2-1 victory over Villarreal at the Etihad Stadium breathes life into a campaign that was in urgent need of reviving. A home draw with Napoli and away defeat at Bayern Munich had left Roberto Mancini labelling the visit of Villarreal "must-win", and that is exactly what his side achieved thanks to Aguero's 93rd-minute winner, after a Carlos Marchena own goal had earlier cancelled out Cani's opener.
City's last European outing saw off-field matters overshadow their loss to Bayern Munich as Carlos Tevez allegedly refused to enter the field of play. This time it was Adam Johnson who cut a disappointed figure on the sidelines after Mancini dragged the England winger off before half-time.
Mancini's men suffered a nightmare start, falling behind after three minutes following errors from both Nigel de Jong and Joe Hart. First De Jong made a powderpuff effort to win the ball outside his own penalty area, and then Hart spilled the resulting shot straight for Cani to tap home the opener.
City were level by the break though as Aleksandar Kolarov's devilish low cross was turned home by Marchena under pressure from Edin Dzeko. Kolarov then thought he had handed City the lead after half-time only to see the lineman's flag raised, but Aguero arrived at the back post with almost the final kick of the game to win it for City.
Victory means City are now just a point behind second-placed Napoli, who drew 1-1 with Bayern Munich in Italy. Toni Kroos opened the scoring for the Germans, but they were pegged back before half-time by an own goal from Holger Badstuber. Mario Gomez then missed a second-half penalty for Bayern.
Manchester United's situation was slightly less concerning than City's, largely due to the non-threatening nature of their group - at least on paper. However, after a respectable draw away at Benfica was followed by a shock failure to beat Basel, Sir Alex Ferguson will have been relieved to see his men defeat Otelul Galati 2-0 in Romania.
Ferguson returned Wayne Rooney to his starting line-up for the first time since the forward was sent off whilst on England duty, and Rooney was one of nine changes to the side that faced Liverpool, with Anders Lindegaard once again starting ahead of David De Gea in goal.
In truth, the Red Devils were second-best in a poor first half, and it took until after the hour mark for the breakthrough to arrive. Inevitably it was Rooney who won and scored the penalty to become the highest scoring Englishman in Champions League history.
United's joy was short-lived as Nemanja Vidic then saw red for a rash knee-high challenge, although a yellow card arguably would have sufficed. It mattered little though as, after one or two scary moments, Rooney won and converted a second penalty to kill the match. Victory lifts United to second in Group C, two points behind Benfica, who beat Basel 2-0 in Switzerland. Goals from Bruno Cesar and Oscar Cardozo did the damage for the Portuguese side.
Real Madrid continue to look like one of the teams to beat in this year's tournament after Jose Mourinho's side defeated Lyon 4-0 at El Santiago Bernabeu. Karim Benzema was the first to strike with a poacher's finish on 18 minutes, before both sides had goals disallowed.
Benzema then turned provider immediately after half-time to set up Sami Khedira, before Madrid's supremacy was cemented by an own goal from Hugo Lloris and a late strike from Sergio Ramos.
Madrid already have a five-point lead over both Lyon and Ajax, who chalked up a 2-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb. Miralem Sulejmani gave the Amsterdam club the advantage four minutes after the interval, before Christian Eriksen made the points safe.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Inter Milan continued their recovery following an opening day loss to Trabzonspor with a 1-0 victory over Lille. Giampaolo Pazzini ended a poor-quality opening to the match with the deadlock-breaker on 20 minutes.
Earlier, CSKA Moscow earned their first victory of the campaign with a 3-0 triumph over Trabzonspor. Seydou Doumbia opened the scoring with a left-footed drive on the half-hour, and he later completed his brace after substitute Aleksandrs Cauna had made it 2-0 with a back-post volley.