Jermaine Jenas' stunning free-kick in the 72nd minute earned Tottenham a point which kept them in the top three.
Spurs were trailing 1-0 when Jenas curled his shot home after Rio Ferdinand had fouled Jermain Defoe.
That saved the blushes of England goalkeeper Paul Robinson, who had spilled Ruud Van Nistelrooy's header to allow Mikael Silvestre to touch home.
Alan Smith, Cristiano Ronaldo and Van Nistelrooy came close for United, but Spurs deserved their point.
The visitors will certainly point to the three penalty appeals they had turned down, two of which seemed decent shouts.
The recall of Park Ji-sung to replace the injured Ryan Giggs ensured a match-up with Tottenham's Young-Pyo Lee, his fellow South Korean, and that attracted 25 journalists from Korea to the game.
But most of the Old Trafford crowd were more captivated by the battle between a Dutchman and a Yorkshireman, as Edgar Davids and Alan Smith traded midfield blows.
Silvestre slots home his seventh-minute opening goal
If anything Smith, converted to a midfielder by Sir Alex Ferguson, got the better of the illustrious Davids, and from that foundation United enjoyed the greater early possession.
They also had the good fortune - aided by that dreadful Robinson error - to score early.
Robinson should have held Van Nistelrooy's header from Paul Scholes' swinging free-kick, but when he dropped it Silvestre could hardly miss.
Three minutes later Robinson atoned in part for that error, by blocking Smith's volley after the former Leeds man, for once attacking, looped the ball over Ledley King's head and collected it himself.
Spurs remained a danger on the counter-attack - Lee might have had a 16th-minute penalty after Phil Bardsley seemed to bring him down and Mido was convinced Rio Ferdinand handled in the box.
Then, almost on the stroke of half-time, Defoe's shot from outside the area was well saved by Edwin van der Sar.
Spurs had their third penalty appeal of the game turned down at the start of the second half - O'Shea apparently handling Mido's header - and that sparked a spell of pressure from the visitors.
They still needed Michael Dawson to make a saving tackle as Van Nistelrooy, who had previously only failed to score against Spurs once in his career, prepared to shoot from inside the box.
Midway through the second half yet another no-holds-barred challenge by Davids on Smith led to a booking for the Dutchman, which was his fifth of the season and therefore rules him out of next weekend's north London derby with Arsenal.
It was not to be the last caution - Jenas and team-mate Paul Stalteri both deservedly had their names taken by Uriah Rennie - as the visitors tried to fight their way back into the game.
They achieved it through fair means rather than foul when Jenas saved the blushes of Robinson, and they might even scored again when Michael Carrick's looping free-kick fortuitously struck the bar.
However, the best chance fell to substitute Ronaldo, who had a free header seconds from the end but placed it wide of Robinson's upright from an unmarked position.
Spurs coach Martin Jol on Robinson's error:
"If you look carefully it wasn't a mistake. The ball was skidding off the ground, he didn't drop the ball."
And on Davids' yellow card, Jol added: "It's a bit harsh but we have to live with it."
Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson said:
"The result's disappointing. We were maybe a bit careless in possession, and we had some good opportunities to kill the game off.
"But credit to Tottenham - they are always a handful in the air, a very powerful team, a very big team.
"I think at the end of the day it's probably a fair result."
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Bardsley (Rossi 81), Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea, Fletcher (Ronaldo 75), Smith, Scholes, Rooney, van Nistelrooy, Park.
Subs Not Used: Howard, Miller, Pique.
Booked: Rooney, Bardsley.
Goals: Silvestre 7.
Tottenham: Robinson, Stalteri, Dawson, King, Lee, Lennon (Keane 65), Carrick, Jenas, Davids, Mido, Defoe (Pedro Mendes 84).
Subs Not Used: Naybet, Kelly, Cerny.
Booked: Davids, Jenas, Stalteri.
Goals: Jenas 72.
Ref: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).