Manchester United are set to end 2010 on top of the Barclays Premier League despite Lee Bowyer's late leveller for Birmingham in the 1-1 draw at St Andrew's.
Dimitar Berbatov had followed his double in the Boxing Day win over Sunderland with what looked another decisive contribution to take his tally for the campaign to 15 goals. But Bowyer, who had scored the winner against Chelsea last month, equalised to lift Birmingham out of the bottom three.
Berbatov broke the deadlock in the 58th minute with his eighth goal in his last three starts. Darron Gibson played a probing pass into the path of the striker who came inside Liam Ridgewell before drilling a low shot past Foster into the corner of the net.
With a minute remaining in regulation time Bowyer rescued a point for Birmingham when a deep cross from Roger Johnson was helped on by Nikola Zigic, with a hint of handball, and fell into the path of the former England midfielder who made no mistake.
United's point enabled them to move ahead of Manchester City on goal difference - they also have two games in hand - and nudge seven points clear of champions Chelsea.
They are now unbeaten in 23 league games and have lost only two of 36 Premier League matches during the calendar year. Arsenal could overtake them with a big win at Wigan on Wednesday, but the likelihood is United will be top at the start of January.