David Moyes had named an odd lineup, with Rafael rested in place of Chris Smalling - perhaps understandable to get more height in the side, but then Marouane Fellaini was also on the bench. Shinji Kagawa started on the left.
Unsurprisingly, United struggled against Stoke's energetic midfield, and just a few minutes in found themselves behind to a Peter Crouch goal, David de Gea saving the striker's first effort from a cross but Jonny Evans and Phil Jones failing to stop him from poking the loose ball over the line.
United had more possession, but couldn't craft anything meaningful, while Stoke created a flurry of chances on the break, with Jon Walters and Peter Crouch both missing excellent opportunities to double Stoke's lead.
With the visitors having had several clear chances and United having had none, things were looking bleak until Robin van Persie drew United level, powering a loose ball into the bottom corner with his trusty left foot. Yet Stoke hit back again not long afterwards, Marko Arnautovic curling a fantastic free-kick in to restore the visitors' lead before the break.
United continued to struggle, but encouragingly, managed to increase the pressure as the game drew on, something we've been worryingly unable to do since David Moyes took over. Thankfully, that energy told, and Wayne Rooney planed a quite magnificent header from a corner in to level the scores.
That left United with about twelve minutes to find a winner, but they didn't need them, as Javier Hernandez took just two to score the winner, collecting Patrice Evra's fine cross to head home unmarked at the back post and spark scenes of relief and rare celebration.