The Saints took a third-minute when Jay Rodriguez pounced on a defensive error from David de Gea and Michael Carrick but United were able to rally five minutes later when Wayne Rooney levelled with his 100th goal at Old Trafford, racing onto a Shinji Kagawa through-ball.
Rooney then went past United legend George Best on 138 league goals scored for the club when he added a second in the 27th minute from close range from Patrice Evra’s header before a nervy end eventually saw last season’s runners-up make the most of City’s slip-up at QPR last night to extend the gap to two-and-a-half wins at the summit of the table.
Luis Suarez opened the scoring in the fifth minute when Aaron Ramsey failed to clear before Jordan Henderson added a second on the hour-mark with a jinking run but Olivier Giroud’s header from a free-kick five minutes later and Theo Walcott’s well-struck effort from Giroud’s lay-off allowed the Gunners to record a point when all seemingly looked lost.
But the Royals did not lay down as Adam Le Fondre gave them a glimmer of hope in the 87th minute, stroking home Hope Akpan’s through-ball before the same duo combined deep into injury-time with Le Fondre levelling the game much to the delight of the Madejski Stadium faithful.
Elsewhere, Leighton Baines scored a double as Everton saw off West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at Goodison Park, Fulham eventually eased past London rivals West Ham United 3-1 at home and Gareth Bale scored a sublime equaliser as Tottenham drew 1-1 at Norwich City.
2012/13 Barclays Premier League season scores