Manchester United's seemingly unstoppable charge hit a brick wall at Blackburn with a 1-0 defeat which left title rivals Arsenal four points clear of them at the top of the Barclaycard Premiership.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side had won their previous eight games and had not lost to Blackburn for eight years, but skipper Garry Flitcroft's goal and a fine defensive performance was enough to end those records.
For the first 30 minutes, United looked awesome and spurned a number of good openings.
But what will have been a concern to Ferguson is that his strikers did not make goalkeeper Brad Friedel work during that period.
The let-offs had a noticeable effect as Rovers kept their discipline, defended superbly and started to attack with some self-belief.
After Flitcroft had driven the ball home to secure the lead, Blackburn maintained their poise for the second half and even Roy Keane's first appearance since August 31 - he went on for the last half-hour - could not change the course of the game.
With Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke consistently posing difficult questions to their old club's defenders, Martin Taylor quite brilliant at the back - he was the brick wall - and Flitcroft crunching into tackles in midfield, it was the home side who looked more likely to score.
Both sides had played cat-and-mouse football in the opening minutes, feeling the opposition out, before United - despite the absence of Juan Sebastian Veron - strung together several good moves which Blackburn only kept out at full stretch.
Poor control by Ruud van Nistelrooy saw a chance go begging when a drilled pass by Phil Neville found him unmarked in a threatening position.
A sweeping pass by Paul Scholes opened up Blackburn and when Ryan Giggs' short cross found van Nistelrooy a goal seemed certain, but Taylor, standing just in front of his goalkeeper, blocked the Dutchman's volley.
Twice more United swung penetrating balls into the danger area but both times Taylor again cleared the lines.
After 20 minutes, Blackburn had yet to mount a meaningful attack, but there were signs of Rovers getting into the match when Cole turned Mikael Silvestre well only to mishit his shot from a tight angle.
United were hugely dominant in terms of possession but Blackburn finally put a decent move together when Lucas Neill struck a telling cross and Cole beat Wes Brown in the air but headed yards wide.
Just after the half-hour mark Diego Forlan and van Nistelrooy were guilty of dreadful misses.
John O'Shea survived Neill's rugged challenge and fired across goal where Forlan miskicked fortuitously to van Nistelrooy, who scooped the ball over the crossbar.
Blackburn survived again when a thrilling run by Forlan down the right wing ended with the Uruguayan crossing for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to hit a first-time shot from 15 yards, but again Taylor threw his giant body in the way.
Van Nistelrooy had a 20-yard strike comfortably held by Friedel and then Fabien Barthez showed he had not gone to sleep by tipping over David Dunn's fiercely-struck effort from the edge of the United area.
Five minutes before half-time, Blackburn made a nonsense of United's territorial possession by taking the lead. Damien Duff's free-kick by the right corner of the penalty area was headed back by Taylor, and Flitcroft drove the ball into the gap between Barthez and the post.
Six minutes into the second half, Blackburn somehow failed to extend their lead after Duff beat Silvestre and sent a perfect low cross across the six-yard area which Cole and Yorke missed and then Flitcroft sliced the ball wide at the far post.
Rovers were much better than in the first 45 minutes and Gary Neville had to dive in to stop Cole from heading a second goal.
Phil Neville was only a yard wide after Blackburn were surprised by a corner routine and then Keane went on for Forlan for the last 31 minutes.
United launched a series of assaults and Friedel fielded easily after van Nistelrooy tried his luck, then the Dutchman beat the offside trap but the American goalkeeper came off his line like a shot, forced the striker wide and he could only find the side netting.
Yorke rifled over from just inside the area and Cole missed a glorious opportunity from 15 yards after Yorke had nudged a pass to him.
United were starting to look ragged and Duff and Flitcroft were inches away from making it 2-0.
In a raucous finish, Solskjaer put a good header over, Cole blasted wide, Yorke skewed off target and Tugay missed by inches with a free-kick.
Blackburn boss Graeme Souness hailed the performances of his former Manchester
United strike duo as Rovers ended the Reds' eight-match winning run.
Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke caused United numerous problems - though it was
former Manchester City player Garry Flitcroft who fired in the goal in the 1-0
Souness said: 'It is a monster win for us against a top team. It was a great
team performance and I thought our front two were particularly good. They worked
their socks off, cleverly held up play and showed they were top players.
'They will have enjoyed today but we looked very solid throughout the whole
team. We were apprehensive and started in a nervous fashion but we changed it,
picked a lot more of the second-phase balls up and had some good chances and
caused them some problems.'
Souness revealed the result was a reward for his game plan, adding: 'We've
often got punished in end-to-end games so I wanted us to try and win the ball on
the halfway line - and for the largest part it worked.
'Garry likes to knock a few people over and he wasn't doing it in the first
half - but he did in the second and we started to get more of the ball.
'We feel our football has been good this year but today we had a game plan -
maybe we need to concede more ground to teams. It worked today.'
Blackburn meet United twice next month in the Worthington Cup semi-final, but
this was the one Souness wanted to win.
He added: 'The Premiership is the most important thing for us and these are a
very valuable three points for us.
'This is our second season here and we want to be in it next year. We want to
do well in the Worthington Cup but if someone had said win today and lose the
other two I might have taken it.'
Flitcroft scored in the 40th minute, hammering home after Martin Taylor had
headed back Damien Duff's free-kick. It was the first goal United had conceded
in 498 minutes but Rovers wasted several chances to extend their lead.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson bemoaned his side's missed chances - Ruud van
Nistelrooy was a particular culprit.
Ferguson said on Sky Premiership Plus: 'I thought we did very well in the
first half and could have scored four or five goals.
'But if you miss chances like we did today and conceded their only strike at
goal you think it's not going to be your day.
'In the second half the final pass let us down at times but we still created
some good chances - but we'll regret the chances we missed in the first half.
'The important thing is we have always had a great resilience to keep going -
and we did that today. But it wasn't our day, it just wasn't our day.'
The normally-reliable van Nistelrooy squandered United's best opening midway
through the second half, rounding goalkeeper Brad Friedel but firing into the
Ferguson said: 'You expect Ruud to score in those situations but I think
today he rushed it and was anxious.'
On Flitcroft's decisive breakthrough the United boss added: 'You don't like
losing goals like that, its a soft one from our point of view.
'They were not in the game at the time and it meant in the second half they
only had to play on the counter-attack.'
Ferguson gave Roy Keane his first outing for almost four months when he
introduced him as a second-half substitute - but taking off United's most
forceful player Diego Forlan.
The United manager added: 'I think that was plenty for Roy. He was well off
his normal form but he's so inspirational - it was a matter of getting him out
The result leaves United four points behind leaders Arsenal in the table but
Ferguson is not unduly concerned.
He said: 'The important thing about the championship is to be challenging on
New Year's Day. The second half of the season can be very interesting, so you