Wayne Rooney's hat-trick helped guide Manchester United to victory over bottom-of-the table Portsmouth.
Rooney put the visitors ahead from the spot after he was brought down by Michael Brown only for Kevin-Prince Boateng's penalty to haul Pompey level.
Ryan Giggs crossed for Rooney to slot in and the Welsh winger was then fouled to allow the England striker to grab his third with a second penalty.
Giggs added a late free-kick as United kept the pressure on leaders Chelsea.
The win moved United to within two points of Premier League table-toppers Chelsea, who play Arsenal on Sunday.
It was Giggs' 100th Premier League goal and capped a performance of vision and verve which has been the trademark of an illustrious career - and this a day ahead of the his 36th birthday.
Modest Rooney praises Giggs' form
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson had to watch from the stands as he began the first of a two-game touchline ban and, in an even first half, it was far from comfortable viewing for the Scot before his team eased away to victory.
Portsmouth had new manager Avram Grant in charge and, although he will take encouragement from the display, he knows his side need to start converting some promising play into points.
The Fratton Park side have bemoaned a lack of fortune this season with seven of 10 Premier League defeats being by the odd goal.
They certainly did not lack a fight and fervour to their play against United but it was a lack of composure in front of goal against the top-flight champions rather than luck which proved their downfall.
Striker Aruna Dindane was Pompey's main culprit as he squandered three gilt-edged chances and capitalise on an early spell of pressure.
Dindane was played in behind the United defence by Prince-Boateng but took too long to get his shot off and United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak quickly came out to smother the danger.
Ivorian Dindane then sent a 22-yard shot just wide and also headed past the post from 10 yards when unmarked as he met an inviting cross from Jamie O'Hara.
Kuszczak had also tipped over a 20-yard strike from O'Hara which was bound for the top corner as United were unusually forced on to the back foot.
However, the visitors have the type of players capable of turning defence into attack in an instant and duly did so as they punished Pompey's profligacy.
Rooney exchanged passes with Antonio Valencia as the pair led a swift United counter-attack before the England striker won a penalty after being fouled by Brown.
The Pompey midfielder protested his innocence but television replays appeared to show Brown catching Rooney, who picked himself up to calmly score from the penalty spot.
To their credit, Pompey continued to force the issue and were given a route back into the game when they were also awarded a penalty.
Grant questions penalty decisions
United centre-back Nemanja Vidic appeared to be harshly punished for tugging at Frederic Piquionne's shirt as they went up for an O'Hara free-kick and Prince-Boateng, who missed a spot-kick last week, made no mistake this time.
Dindane headed wide as he spurned another chance, while Paul Scholes had a shot deflected narrowly wide as the game developed into a sparky affair.
But any hopes Portsmouth had of causing an upset suffered a major setback as United raised their game after the break, with Giggs setting up Rooney's second goal.
Giggs was found by a Darren Fletcher ball from midfield and immediately curled in a ball for Rooney to slot past keeper Asmir Begovic.
Giggs's persistence then saw him win the ball back off Piquionne, who brought down the midfielder to leave referee Mike Dean little choice but to award a third penalty of the match.
Rooney completed his hat-trick - his third for the Old Trafford outfit - by sending Begovic the wrong way to give United some breathing space before Giggs curled a 22-yard free-kick into the bottom corner.
Pompey continued to battle on and John Utaka hit the crossbar but the visitors, ultimately, proved too strong.