A last-minute equaliser by Ashley Young spared Manchester United from humiliation against FC Basel in the Champions League on Tuesday, as Manchester City were outclassed 2-0 by Bayern Munich.
Leading 2-0 at half-time at Old Trafford, United found themselves 3-2 down after some calamitous defensive lapses and were staring at a devastating loss until Young headed home Nani's cross in the 90th minute.
There seemed little danger at the interval as the hosts led through two goals by Danny Welbeck, both created by the evergreen Ryan Giggs.
The Swiss champions punished United in the second half, however, with Fabian Frei slamming home following a corner in the 58th minute before his fine cross set up Alexander Frei to equalise with a header two minutes later.
Panicking, United saw Antonio Valencia clumsily concede a penalty for a foul on Marco Streller and Alexander Frei stepped up to claim his second goal from the penalty spot.
Thorsten Fink's men were minutes from an unforgettable upset, but United refused to accept defeat and equalised at the death when Young claimed his first goal in Europe's elite club competition.
"It was a really good performance in the first half but we were left grappling to get a result in the second half. We threw it away," said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
"Losing three goals at home should be a wake-up call for us."
The result left Basel level on points at the Group C summit with Benfica, who won 1-0 at Romanian competition debutants Otelul Galati, with United two points off the pace and without a win after two games.
City are bidding to prove that owner Sheikh Mansour's massive investment has turned them into continental heavyweights, but they were given a reality check by a Bayern team that have now gone 10 games without conceding a goal.
The visit to Bayern's Allianz Arena, which will host the final on May 19, was billed as their first major test in this season's competition and Roberto Mancini's side found themselves 2-0 down by half-time.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart could count himself unfortunate for both goals.
In the 38rd minute he saved from Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller, only to see Mario Gomez slot home the rebound, and Gomez followed up in similar fashion in first-half injury time after Hart had blocked Daniel Van Buyten's header.
"I think that for us this team was too strong but we still have another chance to progress with nothing to lose," said Mancini.
"Maybe if we meet them in the second game in Manchester we can improve and beat them."
The second half told a similar story, with only Hart keeping the score respectable, while there were angry exchanges on the City bench after Carlos Tevez refused to come on as a substitute when instructed to do so by Mancini.
The City coach appeared stunned by Tevez's behaviour during a televised post-match interview, and in his subsequent press conference he said: "He's finished with me, with me he's finished."
The other Group A game saw Napoli beat Villarreal 2-0 through goals from Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani to leave the Italian side second in the pool on four points, two points behind Bayern.
Real Madrid breezed past Ajax in Group D, comfortably winning 3-0 over a team against whom they netted six unanswered goals in the group phase of last season's competition.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema were the goalscorers for Jose Mourinho's side, who lead the group by two points from Lyon after the French side overcame Dinamo Zagreb 2-0.
Claudio Ranieri's first Champions League assignment in charge of Inter Milan saw the 2010 champions win 3-2 at CSKA Moscow, with Mauro Zarate netting a 78th-minute winner after the hosts had hit back to level from 2-0 down.
"Our mental strength was the key to our success," said Ranieri.
"CSKA played very well but there can be only one winner, and today it was Inter."
Stunned 1-0 at home by Trabzonspor in their first game, Inter now sit a point behind the Turkish side in second place in Group B, after Lille were held to a 1-1 draw in Trabzon.