Robin van Persie ended his two-month goal drought to help Manchester United to a comfortable 2-0 win over Stoke on Sunday.
The three points helped restore the leaders' 15-point cushion over neighbours City and inched them closer to their 20th championship.
The Dutch ace had gone 10 matches without scoring before slamming home a penalty midway through the second half to add to Michael Carrick's close range toe-poke in the fourth minute.
Tony Pulis made three changes to his Stoke side which was beaten 3-1 by relegation rivals Aston Villa last weekend. Matthew Etherington, Marc Wilson and Dean Whitehead were all axed. Andy Wilkinson replaced Wilson at full-back after a back complaint while Glenn Whelan came into midfield along with Charlie Adam.
Sir Alex Ferguson made four changes from the side which was defeated 2-1 by cross-city rivals Manchester City on Monday night. Ryan Giggs, Rafael, Danny Welbeck and the injured Ashley Young all dropped out. Captain Nemanja Vidic recovered from a calf injury to start along with Antonio Valencia, Shinji Kagawa and striker Javier Hernandez.
Stoke started the game with a simple 4-4-2 formation. However, Ryan Shotton and Glenn Whelan failed to provide enough width for much of the game and Charlie Adam's poor set-pieces let his side down at times. The system changed to 4-3-3 for the final ten minutes as former England strike force Peter Crouch and Michael Owen came onto the field.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who earned his 900th win as United manager, set his side up in a 4-3-3 system - or so we all thought. As soon as the game kicked-off Wayne Rooney was playing in the middle of the park alongside Michael Carrick in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernandez and Antonio Valencia sitting behind lone striker Van Persie.
Stoke brought on Crouch, Owen and Cameron Jerome on as Geoff Cameron, Jonathan Walters and Kenwyne Jones made way during the second half. However, the changes did little to influence the game and the United defence was rarely tested.
The visitors made just the one change to their side and that came when the game was done and dusted as Hernandez was replaced by willing runner Danny Welbeck.
Jon Moss was rarely involved and was reluctant to flash any cards. He was forced into two bookings in the second half for each side though. Antonio Valencia was carded for blocking Charlie Adam's attempted quick free-kick while Cameron Jerome was cautioned for sliding in on Nemanja Vidic, bringing the officials tally to 58 yellow cards and just the one red so far this season.
Wayne Rooney was awarded the man of the match and it was hard to look anywhere else as he produced a master class of a display from midfield. He could have played with his eyes closed he was that comfortable in the role and even Sir Alex Ferguson was impressed by the way he controlled the game calling his performance "brilliant".
Robin van Persie was more than happy to end his two-month goal drought and always looked a threat in attack. The Dutchman had gone ten domestic games without scoring but won and then converted a penalty in the 66th minute and the relief was tangible. He clearly likes playing against Stoke because it was his eighth goal against them in seven games.
The Potters are suddenly staring the relegation trapdoor in the face and their hopes of staying in the top flight for an eighth successive year are hanging in the balance with games fast running out. They have picked up only five points in 2013 and are a side out of form. Wigan in 18th are only three points behind them but have two games in hand. Pulis' side have crucial matches against QPR, Norwich and Sunderland to come before Tottenham come to the Britannia Stadium on the occasion of their 150th anniversary. And they finish the season at Southampton.
Manchester United need only seven more points from their last six matches to claim the title, and that would also require second-place City winning all seven of their remaining games. They go to Upton Park to take on West Ham next before a Monday night clash against relegation-threatened Aston Villa which could see them crowned kings of England with a win.