Manchester United, sent on their way by a rare goal from unsettled defender Wes Brown, beat 10-man Liverpool 3-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday to stay firmly in charge in the Premier League.
With second-placed Arsenal playing at Chelsea, who are third, in a later kickoff, United temporarily went six points clear at the top of the table.
After the dismissal late in the first half of Liverpool's Javier Mascherano for dissent, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani added late goals as United extended their streak over fierce rivals Liverpool to seven wins in their last eight meetings.
Brown, who had previously scored only two goals in 10 years for his hometown club, headed in a Wayne Rooney cross 11 minutes before halftime.
Ten minutes later, Liverpool were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Mascherano, who had been booked early on for a late tackle, was given a second yellow card by referee Steve Bennett.
The decision prompted a furious response from the Argentina international who had to be dragged away from the official by several of his team mates.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was also incensed by the decision after Mascherano responded to a booking for Fernando Torres, who could have been sent off himself in the second half as he allowed his frustration to show.
United manager Alex Ferguson, speaking to Sky TV, said: "He kept badgering the referee. We talk about (curbing) dissent and I think that was dissent."
The incident summed up an unhappy afternoon for Liverpool, who have not beaten United since April 2004 and have now failed to score in their last seven league games against Ferguson's side.
The Merseyside club came into the game in decent form, having won their seven previous matches, but their key players, Torres and Steven Gerrard, made little impact.
Ronaldo, the league's leading scorer, also looked subdued for long periods but still managed to score his 24th league goal of the season as United could have won by a bigger margin.
Only a superb performance from Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who was nevertheless at fault with Brown's goal, spared Liverpool from total humiliation, the Spain international single-handedly keeping United out until the closing stages.
Despite their powerful position in the championship race, scoring goals has been a problem for United, with the exception of Ronaldo.
Wayne Rooney has scored just eight league goals this season and he could have had a hat-trick but for Reina, whose first one-on-one save from the England international came after just six minutes as United quickly set the tone.
Ronaldo hit a post and the breakthrough finally came when Brown, who may leave United in the close season after rejecting a new contract offer, stayed up with the attack to beat Reina to Rooney's cross to head home.
Rooney, Ronaldo and substitute Carlos Tevez were all denied by Reina before Ronaldo headed in Nani's corner 11 minutes from time and two minutes later Nani capped United's day with a superbly struck third goal.
(Editing by Rex Gowar)