|Rooney ended a long open-play goal drought as he struck early at The Hawthorns [GALLO/GETTY]
Wayne Rooney scored his first goal in open play since March as leaders Manchester United won away in the English Premier League for only the second time this season with a 2-1 victory against West Bromwich Albion.
The result of Saturday's early kick-off left United, still unbeaten in the league, three points clear at the top ahead of Manchester City, but City drew level again when they beat Blackpool 1-0 later in the day.
Arsenal stayed two points behind the leaders after securing a routine 3-0 win at Birmingham city.
Rooney opened the scoring for United but it was substitute Javier Hernandez, who netted both goals in United's other away league win this term who sealed victory 15 minutes from time after the Baggies' Peter Odemwingie had missed a penalty.
"It was a really tough game on a greasy pitch," United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports.
"It's a massive result for us today. Over the years we've had to battle out games and we had to do that today."
Rooney put United 1-0 up in the third minute at The Hawthorns when he stooped to head in a Patrice Evra cross and Ferguson was delighted by the England striker's performance.
"Wayne Rooney was absolutely out of this world. He's got his goal, he's off the mark and, hopefully he's on a (goal) run now."
West Brom were level 11 minutes later when James Morrison lashed the ball in from 25 yards out.
Ferguson conceded that West Brom were unfortunate not to have been awarded a first-half penalty when Gary Neville brought down Graham Dorrans.
"I thought it was a penalty," Ferguson said.
"I thought at the time Gary got it (the ball) but when I saw the replay, he got the outside of the player's leg."
The hosts did have a penalty just after the hour when United's Rio Ferdinand brought down Jerome Thomas in the box.
But although Odemwingie sent Tomasz Kuszczak the wrong way, he scuffed his shot so badly that the ball went well wide of the keeper's right post.
And United punished that miss when unmarked substitute Hernandez headed in from a Rooney corner.
Manchester City kept up the pressure on their neighbours as Adam Johnson's deflected shot was enough to beat Blackpool 1-0 and take Roberto Mancini's team level on 41 points.
After a couple of early near misses the visitors went ahead when Johnson's deflected shot flew in and then Carlos Tevez struck a penalty wide.
The Argentine was through on goal twice more in the second half without finding the net and, having fallen out with the fans last month after briefly saying he wanted to leave, found time to apologise to a section on Saturday after one of his misses.
"Even at 1-1 I wouldn't have been desperately disappointed. It showed the character of the players and their determination to turn things round and give us a better 2011 than 2010"
Roy Hodgson, Liverpool manager
If Tevez was relieved to hear the final whistle it must have been nothing compared to the feelings of Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson.
After his team's home defeat by Wolves in midweek it was doom and gloom all round when Bolton went ahead through Kevin Davies late in the first half.
Fernando Torres showed a rare glimpse of form with an excellent equaliser before substitute Cole, who has struggled since his close-season move from Chelsea, enjoyed his finest moment to date in a red shirt by clinching a last-minute winner.
"I thought we played so well, even at 1-1 I wouldn't have been desperately disappointed," said Hodgson. "It showed the character of the players and their determination to turn things round and give us a better 2011 than 2010."
With Chelsea in action against Aston Villa on Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur moved back to fourth, also on 36 points, after Gareth Bale's early header was enough to beat Fulham 1-0.
West Ham United beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 to climb off the bottom and out of the relegation zone after two wins and two draws from their last four games.
Sunderland, who suffered their first home defeat of the season against Blackpool in midweek, recovered with a 3-0 home win over Blackburn Rovers to rise to the heady heights of sixth, on 30 points.
Goals from Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and a comical own goal from Roger Johnson was enough to give Arsene Wenger's side three points at St Andrews and maintain their title charge.