Manchester United recorded a 1-0 victory at Burnley’s Turf Moor Stadium on Tuesday to send them three points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Paul Pogba’s low volley in the 71st minute broke the deadlock and spirit of a resilient Burnley side.
United dominated the contest in which Burnley failed to register a single shot on target until stoppage time.
But the 20-time league winners were struggling to make a breakthrough until Marcus Rashford picked Pogba out with an excellent cross to the edge of the area.
The Frenchman’s connection was perfect, although it took a deflection off Matthew Lowton to ensure the ball went past Nick Pope and into the Burnley net.
On his return from a three-match ban, Edinson Cavani wasted two excellent chances and Bruno Fernandes fired a first-half effort straight at Nick Pope.
Anthony Martial was off target with two first-half chances before failing to convert in the final seconds after he had been sent clean through.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) also played a prominent role for United, deciding against what could have been a potential red card for Luke Shaw and cancelling a Harry Maguire goal effort for a foul, all in the first half.
Although Burnley had three decent chances in a frantic ending, United secured the win to head the table after 17 rounds of matches.
While United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, said nobody remembers what the table looks like in January, Pogba’s clenched fist as Burnley’s last chance went begging indicated the importance of these three points.
It is the first time that has happened this many games into the season since December 2012, in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final, title-winning campaign.
The defeat leaves Burnley 16th on the log, five points above the relegation zone.
Elsewhere, Sheffield United finally gained their first Premier League win of the season in their 18th game as they beat 10-man Newcastle United 1-0 at Bramall Lane.
Newcastle’s Ryan Fraser was sent off late on in the first half after he picked up two bookings in a three-minute spell following fouls on John Fleck and David McGoldrick.
With a little over 15 minutes remaining the Blades were awarded a penalty when Federico Fernandez handled the ball, with the decision given after referee Andy Madley checked the incident on a video screen.
Substitute Billy Sharp sent goalkeeper Karl Darlow the wrong way from the spot for what proved the only goal of the game.
Rhian Brewster nearly added a second for the hosts late on but his deflected strike from 20 yards hit the foot of the post.
The victory ended a club record run of 20 league matches without a win since the Blades beat Chelsea 3-0 on 11 July, before ending the 2019-20 season with three successive defeats.
Their start to this campaign – no wins, two draws and 15 losses – was the worst in Premier League history.
The Blades remain bottom of the table but are now on five points, three behind 19th-placed West Brom and nine adrift of Brighton in 17th, having played a game more than both.
Meanwhile, Newcastle, who have now gone eight games without a win in all competitions, remain 15th, eight points clear of the relegation zone.
Everton maintained their challenge for a UEFA Champions League spot with a 2-1 over Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux on Tuesday.
The Toffees off to a brilliant start when Super Eagles forward, Alex Iwobi, fired home in the fifth minute for his first goal in 38 Premier League appearances.
Wolves, seeking only their second win in eight games, hit back in the 14th minute through Ruben Neves. The Portuguese midfielder made it two goals in two league matches with a sublime sidefoot finish following brilliant movement from Rayan Ait-Nouri.
The home side looked more likely to edge the contest until defender Michael Keane rose highest in the area in the 77th minute to convert Andre Gomes’ teasing cross from the left to give Everton the win.
The Toffees’ sixth away win in the league this season lifts them to fourth in the table, level on points with third-place Leicester.
Wolves are, however, 14th on the table.