Molly Bartrip’s own goal sent Manchester United back to the Women’s Super League summit following a hard-fought 2-1 win at Tottenham.
After an entertaining first half, the contest sprung into life when Leah Galton opened the scoring in the 67th minute with her fifth goal of the term.
Spurs levelled at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium soon after through January signing Bethany England, who responded to her national team snub by scoring a fourth goal for her new club, but Marc Skinner’s United would not be denied.
Bartrip put through her own net immediately after to ensure, despite Ella Toone’s late red card for shoving Eveliina Summanen, the hosts suffered a seventh consecutive league defeat while United leapfrog Chelsea to go top.
This fixture was meant to be the league opener on September 10 but the Queen’s death saw it postponed and yet it was rearranged to still be held at the club’s 62,850-seater stadium.
Fans turned up in their numbers to see several Lionesses’ in action and Alessia Russo, the subject of deadline-day bids from Tottenham’s north London rivals Arsenal, was in the thick of the action early on.
It was no surprise when title-chasing United carved out the first opportunity thanks to a slick move where Toone sent Galton through on goal but the forward blazed over.
Galton did have the ball in the net not long after but her 22nd-minute header from Ona Batlle’s deep cross was ruled out for a marginal offside.
Rehanne Skinner’s Spurs, despite their six-game losing streak in the division, had also started brightly and should have taken the lead midway through the first half.
Ashleigh Neville managed to take out four United players with a superb defence-splitting through ball but England fired over from 14 yards.
It was the type of chance the former Chelsea forward would have expected to take and especially after the disappointment of missing out on this week’s England squad.
England saw another effort deflect across the face of goal before Russo’s speculative long-range shot was easy for Tinja-Riikka Korpela to ensure it remained 0-0 at half-time.
Man United knew victory would send them back to the summit and came out with renewed purpose after the break with Galton, captain Katie Zelem and Russo going close.
It felt a matter of time before Skinner’s United broke the deadlock but the woodwork denied them when Toone raced into the area and sent a low strike against the base of the post.
Tottenham briefly hit back with a dangerous counter-attack but normal service resumed when Russo’s deflected shot called Korpela into action.
After Amy Turner blocked Toone’s latest effort, Skinner turned to his bench but the breakthrough did finally arrive before his substitutions were made.
Batlle bombed forward down the right and saw her dangerous cross drop perfectly for Galton, who this time drilled home from six yards with 23 minutes left.
More drama would follow though with Spurs equalising with quarter of an hour left through England’s superb individual goal.
Mana Iwabuchi found England on the halfway line and she raced away, cut inside Maya Le Tissier before she arrowed a powerful low strike into the corner.
Tottenham were only level for a matter of seconds though with Zelem finding substitute Lucia Garcia and her centre was sliced into the roof of the net for an own goal by a devastated Bartrip with 14 minutes remaining.
There was still time for Toone to earn a red card for shoving Summanen in the face but it failed to stop United holding out for the victory after England sent a late header wide to ensure they enter the international break in first position.