It was to be the game where United would turn their faltering campaign on its head in a bid to secure Champions League qualification. And with the talented trio of Juan Mata, Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney starting together for the first time, you'd be forgiven for thinking the script was already written. But Stoke, with spirit and fight aplenty, refused to follow the reading as a two goals from Charlie Adam, one of which the Dubious Goals Panel will have a say on, secured the Potters' first league victory over Man United since 1984 to evict them from the relegation zone.
The Scotland midfielder's free-kick deflected off Michael Carrick's knee as the home side took the lead in front of a passionate Britannia crowd, only for van Persie to equalise with a well-taken finish.
And Adam had the final say as the former Liverpool man hit a stunning strike straight into the top corner to secure three vital points.
Regardless of the historic significance of the victory, it'll taste even sweeter for the Potters faithful following six-pointers defeats to Sunderland and Crystal Palace in recent weeks.
Mark Hughes's side had found themselves in the feared post prior to kick off following wins for both West Ham and Sunderland. As if to emphasize the tightness of the league's relegation dogfight, Stoke, who were in the drop zone at 3pm, were in 11th place following their memroable victory over Manchester United.
It was a miserable afternoon for David Moyes as the Scot suffered his eighth defeat this season, double the amount Sir Alex Ferguson, who was present at the Britannia, totalled last season.
With United's hopes of retaining their title all but on, Champions League qualification would see Moyes somewhat salvage his maiden season at Old Trafford, after being knocked out of the title race and both domestic cups. United will have their work cut-out if they are to compete in Europe's elite competition next season, but Tottenham's draw away to Hull will be positively received in a season where buoyantness as been a rare prospect around Manchester United this term.
In a game where United were odds on to begin a winning streak which would see them race into the coveted Champions League places come May, Charlie Adam adjusted the script to Stoke's fitting as Mark Hughes secured only his third victory in 17 attempts against the club where he spent 13 years and won two league titles.
Four minutes after Evans picked up a knock and was duelly replaced by Brazilian Rafael, Rooney, who was playing in his first game since New Years' Day, missed the chance to give United the lead. The England striker, who is campaigning for a wage increase in turn of a contract extension, volleyed wide Evra's inviting fizzed in low cross in a period where United threatened to properly assert their authority.
Fantastic defending on the edge of the box denied Stoke a promising effort on goal after Jones, who received lengthy treatment and was replaced by Welbeck towards the conclusion of the first forty-five, dived in to challenge Walters as the striker looked set to shoot.
Robin van Persie's header was inadvertently blocked on the line by Glenn Whelan before Stoke opened the scoring with a goal which undeniably possessed a massive slice of luck after 38 minutes.
Adam's long-range free kick, which the 25 year-old thought was worth a go, deflected of Michael Carrick's knee and into the net, leaving De Gea helplessly stranded.
United began the second-half with a refined amount of vigour and were rewarded after van Persie beat Begovic from 15 yards following Mata's intelligent pass.
But Stoke refused to settle for a point a retook the lead five minutes later as Adam's spectacular long-range effort gave De Gea absolutely no chance.
United, applying plenty of pressure, pushed for equaliser late on and it almost came as Wayne Rooney saw his brilliant set-piece effort amazingly thwarted by Begovic, only for Cleverley to sky his following shot over the bar in the chaos which followed as the seven added minutes dithered away. It summed up United on the day. Nothing went for the 20-time league champions.