Wayne Rooney scored twice and Rio Ferdinand grabbed his first goal for Manchester United in a 4-0 rout of Wigan Athletic, which pushed the Old Trafford club up to second in the Premier League on Wednesday.
In the night's other game, West Ham United beat Everton 2-1 at Goodison Park.
The victory by Manchester United, which took their tally to 34 points from 16 games, helped Alex Ferguson's men leapfrog Liverpool into second place, nine points behind leaders Chelsea.
Promoted Wigan, on 25 points, dropped one place to eighth.
"It was an important win for us tonight," Ferguson told Sky Sports. "We produced some great football.
"The second goal settled us down and the confidence came back into the team.
"The only thing we can do is keep good, consistent form until the end of the season and if Chelsea slip up we want to be the team that's nearest to them."
United ended a difficult seven-day spell by giving their title rivals a powerful reminder of their goalscoring abilities.
Knocked out of the Champions League a week ago and held to a 1-1 home draw by Everton last Sunday, United made the early running against Wigan and it came as no surprise when the home team took the lead although the identity of the scorer was.
Ferdinand, making his 140th appearance for the club, finally ended his wait for a goal when the England defender headed in a right-wing corner from Ryan Giggs on the half hour.
Rooney was denied by a fine save from Wigan's outstanding goalkeeper Mike Pollitt before the England striker produced a typically clever strike to make it 2-0 in the 34th minute.
After wriggling his way past two defenders in the box, Rooney unleashed a fierce low drive with his left foot to record his seventh league goal of the season.
Rooney missed an open goal six minutes into the second half, hitting the bar from four metres with Pollitt out of position.
But the former Everton favourite made no mistake in the 55th minute, lifting the ball over the onrushing keeper after being sent clear by Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Van Nistelrooy added the fourth goal from the penalty spot after he was adjudged to have been brought down by Pollitt.
Paul Jewell's 200th league game in charge of Wigan proved a less than memorable occasion for the manager.
Alan Mahon came close to scoring for the visitors, twice forcing full-length saves from Edwin van der Sar in Wigan's first ever game against United.
At Goodison, James Beattie gave Everton a ninth-minute lead before West Ham hit back through David Weir (own goal) and Bobby Zamora.
West Ham rose to seventh in the table while Everton stayed 15th.