Premier League - United stall in draw at Newcastle
Manchester United were held to a goalless draw by Newcastle at St James' Park to slow down their charge towards the Premier League title.
United had chances to open up a nine-point lead over Arsenal at the top of the table, the best of which fell to Ryan Giggs with just over 20 minutes remaining, but Newcastle held firm to earn a deserved point.
The result sees title-chasing United instead extend their lead to seven points, but the Gunners can reduce that deficit to four when they face Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Wednesday.
For Newcastle, the draw takes them onto 40 points and near certain safety in their first season back in the top flight.
Sir Alex Ferguson - who continued to serve his touchline ban from the stands at St James' - made five changes to the side that dropped to defeat against Manchester City in the FA Cup at the weekend, with Wayne Rooney one of the players to come back into the side following a suspension for his foul-mouthed tirade at television cameras.
Having been forced to sit and watch as his team-mates lost the Wembley semi-final, a fired-up Rooney was unleashed in tandem with Javier Hernandez and the pair combined in just the second minute to signal the visitors' intent. Only a fantastic save by Tim Krul at the feet of the Mexican after it seemed certain he would score from Rooney's inch-perfect cross prevented an early breakthrough.
Rooney then forged a chance for himself from which he should have scored, the England striker doing the hard work to dink the ball over the challenge of Mike Williamson only to see Krul get the finest of touches and send the ball over.
But those opportunities came on the break and it was Newcastle who made the most of the running in the opening 20 minutes as the Magpies enjoyed the better of possession and territory. Alan Pardew would certainly have been encouraged by his team's play during that period, which only lacked the knowhow to prise open United's defence.
Jonas Gutierrez on the left flank did his best to provide some penetration and on occasion he caused John O'Shea problems, but with United gaining more of a foothold as the first half wore on, the hosts had to wait until the 41st minute for their first clear-cut goalscoring chance.
Lovenkrands was again at the centre of the action mid-way through the second half when he tumbled under the challenge of Anderson just inside the box. The former Rangers man screamed for a penalty, but his appeals were in vain as referee Lee Probert waved play on.
That was one of the few times Newcastle were able to get out of their own half after the break, as United dominated possession and effectively set up camp at the other end.
That pressure nearly told with 69 minutes on the clock, when Giggs wasted the best chance of the match, the veteran inexplicably sidefooting wide of the upright from Patrice Evra's cross when hitting the target seemed easier.
Aside from a shot from Stephen Ireland - making his belated debut on loan from Aston Villa - which bounced wide of the post, it was all United as the full-time whistle approached as Ferguson's side looked to do what they have done numerous times before - snatch a late winner.
And there was a strong sense of deja vu in the air when, in injury time, Hernandez hit the deck in the box and the whistle sounded. But, no doubt to huge relief in North London, referee Probert had not blown for a foul but rather to book the Mexican for diving.
With that went United's chances of getting more than a point out of the game as the title chase took another twist that, with Arsenal still to visit Old Trafford on May 1, may yet see the Premier League trophy slip from the Red Devils' grasp.