Three points were a must for both Tottenham and Manchester United in their English Premier League game at White Hart Lane, with no other result really doing either team any favours.
Spurs, roared on by the home crowd, scored two smashing goals, each giving them a vital lead in the game, only for them to show some Christmas-time generosity, gift-wrapping two strikes for Wayne Rooney to throw away two precious points.
Kyle Walker gave Spurs the lead early in the first half, with the defender himself then gifting Rooney an equaliser with an appalling mistake.
Sandro took the matter into his own hands, thumping a superb long-range effort into the top corner, before Hugo Lloris gave away a penalty to hand Rooney the easiest of braces as the match ended 2-2.
The result means United are now nine points behind leaders Arsenal after 13 games in the season, with Spurs, much more enterprising going forward in the 90 minutes, a further point and place adrift, in ninth on 21 points.
Andre Villas-Boas surprisingly only made three changes to the side that were mauled by Manchester City last weekend, while David Moyes also had a few new faces from the 5-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen, with Ryan Giggs given the day off.
Realising the importance of the three points for both sides, following Arsenal's victory on Saturday, it was a bright enough start, as crosses from the both ends kept pouring in, even if the final ball did leave a lot to be desired.
There looked to be a lot more cutting edge about Spurs, however, still the turgidity hung in the air like a spell cast by someone not too fond of a lot of goalmouth action.
A goal the game needed, and the goal came about on 18 minutes. Jonny Evans brought down Paulinho just outside the box with Kyle Walker stepping up to take the freekick. All the raised eyebrows and the smirks at the sight of Walker taking the setpiece disappeared rather quickly when the Spurs rightback powered a low drive under the wall, with the ball sneaking through as the United players rose as one, and beating David De Gea in goal.
The goal seemed to galvanise the home side to net another, and they really should have done with Roberto Soldado and Aaron Lennon given splendid opportunities.
The Spanish international was the first to be presented with a glorious chance, latching onto a pass from Paulinho, in a more advanced role with Sandro and Mousa Dembele sitting deeper, after the striker had initially created the opening with a nice flick to put Paulinho through into space.
Soldado, however, could not keep his shot down while running onto the pass from Paulinho and the chance was gone. The much-maligned summer signing would turn creator soon after, sliding in a nice through ball to Lennon, whose left-footed shot was comfortably saved by De Gea.
Tottenham were made to pay for those misses by United, with the goalscorer absolutely gifting Rooney a goal. A cross from Phil Jones down the right eluded Rooney and the two Spurs central defenders in the middle, and was bouncing away harmlessly only for Walker to decide to keep the play interesting, flicking it back into the middle of the penalty area for Rooney to pounce gleefully and smash it into the back of the net in the 32nd minute.
Nine minutes into the second half and Spurs were back in the lead yet again, as Sandro ran with the ball from midfield, cut-in onto his preferred foot and belted a thunderbolt into the top corner with the outside of his right-peg.
Spurs, however, pushed the why-don't-you-have-another-free-goal-Rooney self-destruct button again, with Lloris bringing down Danny Welbeck inside the box as the United forward ran onto a pass from Rooney. The United goalscorer, who does have a bit of a chequered recent record from the penalty spot, stepped up and calmly slammed the ball home down the middle to make it 2-2 on 57 minutes.
Apart from the two goals and despite having quite a bit of possession, United really did not look to threatening going forward, and were it not for those two costly Tottenham mistakes, the score might well have been 2-0 in the home team's favour.
While Spurs were not exactly setting the world on fire on the attacking front themselves, there was at least a lot more of cutting edge, with the performance light years better than a week ago at the Etihad.
Andros Townsend, puzzlingly left on the bench, and Jermain Defoe was brought on by Villas-Boas as Javier Hernandez look to do his super-sub act at the other end.
Townsend nearly won all the plaudits, going agonisingly close to making contact off a wicked right-wing cross from Walker as Spurs, on the ascendancy, pressed, probed and pestered in search of the winner.
But a winning goal just wouldn't come for either side leaving them wondering if a shot at the Premier League title is perhaps a bridge too far now.