Manchester United huffed and puffed, dominated possession and had plenty of shots, couple of them that struck the woodwork, but when Chris Smalling was shown a red card in the first half of extra time, it looked like going pear-shaped in a hurry in this FA Cup final at Wembley against Crystal Palace.
However, Jesse Lingard had other plans. With the tie looking like it was headed Crystal Palace's way or to a penalty shootout, Lingard hit the ball as true as he possibly ever will in the 110th minute of the match to power Manchester United to the FA Cup title and their first cup of any kind since the great man – Sir Alex Ferguson – retired.
Redemption was Louis Van Gaal's as the Dutchman, under pressure from the fans to call it a day as their club's manager, ended his second season in charge with an FA Cup title Manchester United have craved for quite a while.
After the 90 minutes ended 1-1, courtesy two goals in the space of three minutes, first from Jason Puncheon and then from Juan Mata, it was Lingard and a beautiful, sweet-as-they-come volley, struck into the top corner after a clearance from Damien Delaney, off a cross from the excellent Antonio Valencia, fell to him, that decided the outcome of this engrossing FA Cup final.
Manchester United started brightly, but despite dominating possession, the really clear-cut chances did not quite come. Palace were happy to sit back and hit their opponents on the counter-attack, using the pace of their wingers to threaten the Manchester United defence.
David De Gea, though, was up to his task, saving most of the strikes that came at him, including a couple towards the end of the match.
With the FA Cup final 0-0 at halftime, something had to give, and Manchester United will consider themselves unlucky not to have taken the lead, with Marouane Fellaini, with a smashing strike, and Anthony Martial, with a header, both striking the woodwork.
Despite Manchester United's dominance, it was Crystal Palace who would take the lead, in the 78th minute. After clearing a corner, the Manchester United defence pushed up, allowing Joel Ward to spray the ball in behind the defence and to the running Puncheon down the left. The substitute took a nice first touch and then used that left foot of his to whack the ball past David De Gea, who had no chance of stopping the ball at the near post.
Alan Pardew, delighted to see his team ahead, even did a little celebratory jig on the touchline, but he was shaking all over, and not in a good way, three minutes later, as Mata pulled the match back level again. The equaliser also came off a left foot, as the Spaniard, got on the end of a Wayne Rooney cross and a Fellaini chest down to force the ball into the back of the net off a deflection from Ward. While the goal will go down in Mata's name, the credit should go to Rooney, who made a brilliant run from midfield, showed perseverance, before somehow digging out a cross, which led to the goal.
The match inevitably went into extra time, and it was Palace who created the chances, as Yannick Bolasie was brilliantly denied by De Gea, before Chris Smalling was sent off for an early shower for a second yellow card, when he pulled down Bolasie.
Crystal Palace will look back at the early chance in the second half of extra time, when Dwight Gayle, known for his finishing, could not get enough power to find a way past De Gea, after being put clear through by former Manchester United man Wilfried Zaha.
Soon after that missed chance, 10-man Manchester United found the winner, and what a winner it was too, with Palace unable to muster up enough quality from there to force the game into extra time.