By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At Old Trafford
Manchester United 4 (Evans 25, Evra 58, Van Persie 71, Hernandez 90)
Newcastle United 3 (Perch 4, Evans og 28, Cisse 68)
Newcastle United suffered a last-gasp, heartbreaking 4-3 defeat away at Manchester United in the Premier League on Boxing Day.
In a real Christmas cracker of a fixture, the Magpies led three times over the course of a remarkable afternoon, before being pegged back by the league leaders.
And just as it looked as though they had earned an outstanding point on their travels, the hosts snatched victory in injury-time.
James Perch had given Newcastle a shock early lead before Jonny Evans levelled things up for the Red Devils.
Centre-back Evans then put into his own net and Patrice Evra fired in from distance as the sides remained locked together.
Papiss Cisse swept home the visitors' third but once more the teams were level as Robin Van Persie netted.
And just as the clock ticked past the 90-minute mark, Javier Hernandez fired in a volley to send more than 70,000 Red Devils fans wild.
The result was harsh on Newcastle, who had been exceptional all afternoon and stood toe-to-toe with Manchester United throughout, but they will take plenty of positives from a fantastic performance.
The visitors got off to the perfect start as they broke the deadlock inside four minutes.
Michael Carrick's heavy touch in the middle of the park presented the ball to Ba, who strode forward before hitting a low, long-range 20-yard strike.
On a slick surface, De Gea could only palm it into the middle of the penalty area where Perch, reacting quickest to the loose ball, was on hand to stroke home his first Magpies goal.
The goal stunned Old Trafford into silence - apart from a noisy pocket of travelling supporters in the corner - and the closest Manchester United came to responding in the opening exchanges was when Antonio Valencia latched on to a Paul Scholes lofted ball, but was unable to control his volley at the far post.
Newcastle weren't content with one goal, however, and in the 17th minute a looping Fabricio Coloccini header almost caught out De Gea, with the stopper backpedalling before clutching the effort at the last moment on his goalline.
The Red Devils levelled things up midway through the half as centre-back Evans struck from close range.
Robin Van Persie's free-kick wasn't cleared properly, and although Tim Krul saved well with his leg to deny Javier Hernandez, Evans stabbed into the empty net from a couple of yards.
But on an astonishing afternoon, Newcastle weren't to be subdued by the equaliser and promptly edged back in front within three minutes.
The goal looked in doubt following a raised assistant's flag, ruling Cisse offside, but referee Mike Dean decided the front man was not interfering with play and allowed the Magpies' second of the afternoon to stand.
And they weren't done there. Left-back Davide Santon stung De Gea's palms from 25 yards before Marveaux curled an outstanding free-kick over the wall and against the crossbar, with the keeper motionless.
Hurt by their first half performance and the scoreline, Manchester United came straight out of the blocks after the break and Van Persie volleyed a Ryan Giggs cross well wide.
And they were level for the second time in the afternoon as Evra drove home from the edge of the box. The Magpies could only half-clear Van Persie's corner from the right, and when it reached Evra, he found the bottom corner with a low shot that snuck past Krul.
Some teams would sit back and defend a point away at Old Trafford. Not Newcastle.
Obertan received the ball wide on the left and raced down the line before cutting back into the path of Cisse, who duly swept the ball home.
The visitors had the lead for the third time but it lasted just three minutes as Van Persie fired Manchester United level yet again.
The Dutch international saw a first attempt brilliantly parried by Krul, but when the ball reached him a second time he made no mistake, guiding it into the corner.
Still Newcastle pressed, and De Gea did well to hold a fierce low strike from Marveaux, while at the other end, Van Persie sent a volley inches the wrong side of the upright, and Hernandez grazed the outside of the post with a diving header.
And in keeping with a remarkable contest, Sammy Ameobi almost snatched a late, dramatic winner. WIth five minutes remaining, the substitute strode past a couple of challenges and shot out of De Gea's reach, only to see it hit the foot of the post and bounce straight into the arms of the grateful stopper.
As you would expect, Manchester United produced a late surge of pressure, and Krul was at his best to stop - and hold - a header from Hernandez, which could have snuck in.
And that pressure was to pay dividends with just seconds remaining as Michael Carrick clipped a delivery into the box, which was met by a clinical volley from Hernandez to break Newcastle's hearts.
Manchester United (4-4-2): David De Gea; Chris Smalling, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra (c); Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes (Tom Cleverley 69), Ryan Giggs; Javier Hernandez (Darren Fletcher 90), Robin van Persie
Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Alexander Buttner, Scott Wootton, Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Tunnicliffe
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon; James Perch, Gael Bigirimana (Gabriel Obertan 65), Vurnon Anita; Papiss Cisse (Sammy Ameobi 80), Demba Ba (Shola Ameobi 71), Sylvain Marveaux
Referee: Mike Dean (The Wirral)
Bookings: Manchester United - Evans (36), Hernandez (38), Valencia (53); Newcastle United - Williamson (43), Simpson (61), Cisse (64)