Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson admitted three points was all that mattered after an "important'' 2-1 win over Liverpool.
The Scot accepted some of his side's defending - their Achilles heel all season - had been "erratic and desperate'' in the second half but ultimately it did not matter.
Robin van Persie's 21st of the season put United ahead in the 19th minute and Nemanja Vidic doubled the lead just after the break - inadvertently deflecting in Patrice Evra's header.
Substitute Daniel Sturridge pulled one back, his second in as many games after joining from Chelsea for £12 million, when he fired home after goalkeeper David de Gea had parried Steven Gerrard's shot, setting up a tense finish for the Premier League leaders, but they ground out victory.
"I would have taken that score before the game,'' said the United boss. "The first-half performance, and until we scored the second goal, was absolutely brilliant.
"It was as good a performance as we have had for a long time and we should have been three or four up but when they got their goal they got inspired by it.
"Their supporters got going and it was hard work after that. I am just glad we won the match.
"I haven't seen the (Liverpool) goal again but it looked a bit soft; once again the keeper has parried one out and nobody is following in the rebound.
"It lifted them. Some of our defending after that was a bit erratic and even desperate at times.
"But we managed to get through it. The last three or four minutes they were shoving players into the box and there was some interchange play we had to deal with.
"The name of the game is winning. There are moments where you have to defend. Today was one of them.''
Prior to the game Ferguson had claimed their arch-rivals were so far behind them he did not know where they were in the league.
But after extending the gap between themselves and the eighth-placed Merseysiders to 24 points he changed his tune slightly.
"Winning against Liverpool is important. It doesn't matter where you are in the league,'' he added.
"Manchester United-Liverpool games are fantastic challenges. They are the two most successful teams in the country. Today hopefully those three points will be very important.''
Despite the victory Ferguson questioned the referee for not awarding them a penalty when Shinji Kagawa went down in a challenge with Andre Wisdom in an incident which saw the Japan international collide and injure goalkeeper Jose Reina.
"We should have had a penalty when Shinji was brought down. Howard Webb wasn't going to give us that,'' said the United boss, who was more complimentary about Van Persie's strike.
"It was a great build-up, terrific football and a great finish.''
However, it was not all good news for Ferguson as Ashley Young is reported to have left Old Trafford on crutches. The midfielder was withdrawn from the action at half-time and replaced by Antonio Valencia.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admitted a limp performance in the first 45 minutes had cost his side.
"I felt we were too tentative in the first half - but you can understand with young players playing here,'' he said.
"There wasn't much in the first half but any chances they had were through us giving the ball away.
"I said before we went out that when you play a rival - and this rivalry is massive - you need courage and you need to have belief.
"We wanted to pass the ball, which is great, but it has to be aggressive and we presented them with the ball and three opportunities just by being tentative.
"I am very proud of the fight of the team in the second half having gone 2-0 down. Teams who come here often crumble but I thought by the end we deserved something to be honest.
"We know in terms of the points we are 24 behind (United) but we are not 24 points behind in quality.
"The points difference is due to the squad and that is the difference for us, the depth of the squad.
"Once we close the gap in the squad over the coming transfer windows I have great faith we will be able to challenge and I have seen enough hope in these opening months that we will do that.''
United's second was fractionally offside - although it was almost impossible to call in real time - and Rodgers had no complaints about the decision.
"I am more disappointed with how we defended it to be honest, we have to do better at the back post,'' he said.
The Reds boss praised Sturridge for his significant contribution since arriving last week.
"You have seen from a half appearance today and 55 last weekend that this boy is a goalscorer and what he needed was an opportunity,'' he said.
"He got one goal and was unlucky with a couple of opportunities. He is going to be a terrific signing for us.''