BOLTON, England, Sept 26, 2010 (AFP) - Michael Owen's 200th career goal in England rescued Manchester United from defeat as Sir Alex Ferguson's side were held to a 2-2 draw by Bolton at the Reebok Stadium on Sunday.
Martin Petrov's first goal in a Bolton shirt looked to have earned the hosts a famous victory before substitute Owen popped up with a 74th-minute equaliser.
United went into the game knowing that victory would take them to within a point of leaders Chelsea.
|Bolton Wanderers' defender Sam Ricketts (L) is beaten by Manchester United's forward Dimitar Berbatov during their match on September 26, 2010. AFP|
But it required a brilliant piece of individual skill from Nani to cancel out Zat Knight's early opener in what was an absorbing contest.
United were looking to take advantage of the unexpected defeats suffered by Chelsea and Arsenal the previous day yet found themselves behind as early as the sixth minute.
Bolton had lost 10 of their previous 11 meetings against United and were hammered 4-0 in the corresponding fixture last season.
Yet the team that had not won at home since the final day of last season made the early breakthrough when Knight, who had only scored three top flight goals in three years, got ahead of Johnny Evans to divert the ball over the line following a corner.
It was a diastrous start by Ferguson's team whose defending has come under the microscope after conceding seven times in their previous five league outings.
In what was a frantic start, United responded with efforts by Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher but neither could beat Jussi Jaaskelainen, the Finland keeper who was returning from a three-match suspension.
Bolton might have been tempted to sit on their lead but Owen Coyle's side poured forward, Edwin van der Sar smothering the danger after Kevin Davies got a flick that almost set up Johan Elmander.
United were clearly unsettled and it required a brilliant individual run by Nani for them to draw level midway through the first half.
The Portuguese winger picked up a loose ball inside his own half before embarking on a powerful run in which he motored past three players before beating Jaaskelainen with a low shot into the bottom corner of the net.
United ended the half strongly, Wayne Rooney flashing a powerful effort narrowly over the bar after creating space for himself on the edge of the area.
But Bolton were by no means overawed and it required a timely challenge by Fletcher to deny Elmander after the Swedish striker had burst through the visitors defence.
The frustration was beginning to show. Rooney, subdued by his usual standards, lasted just 16 minutes of the second half before he was replaced by Federico Macheda while a hamstring problem brought Giggs' afternoon to a premature end.
Dimitar Berbatov, six goals in his previous five league outings, forced a fine save from Jaaskelainen before Petrov's excellent 67th minute finish left home fans dreaming of a first win over United since 2007.
The Bulgarian produced a sweet finish after being teed up by Kevin Davies following great vision from Chung-Yong Lee.
But Bolton were unable to hang on to their lead and three minutes after replacing Fletcher, Owen equalised with a clever back header following Nani's free kick - a thrilling end to a great game.