Van der Sar looks on in horror as Bowyer levels for Birmingham
By Mandeep Sanghera
Lee Bowyer struck a controversial 90th-minute goal to earn Birmingham a draw against Manchester United, who moved back to the top of the Premier League.
United had taken the lead when Dimitar Berbatov released Darron Gibson with a clever flick and then took the return pass to drive a shot inside the post.
An 18-yard Berbatov strike also hit the post before the late drama.
A Blues cross appeared to hit Nikola Zigic's arm and Bowyer slid the ball home despite appearing to be offside.
Birmingham lifted themselves out of the bottom three with the draw but United will feel aggrieved at the manner of the leveller.
Phelan doubts ref decision
In addition to what looked like clear handball and offside infringements, the goal might also have been ruled out for a foul by Zigic on Rio Ferdinand as he went up to meet a ball put in by Roger Johnson.
Nonetheless, United have again dropped points on their top-flight travels and have now managed only one win in eight games on the road this season.
United went into the match also looking to regain top spot from Manchester City, who leapfrogged them after beating Aston Villa earlier in the day.
The task was never going to be easy against a Birmingham side that had been beaten only once in their last 23 top-flight games at home.
And United were quickly frustrated by their opponents' 4-5-1 formation as the Blues produced the sort of discipline and organisation that has thwarted so many rivals.
With time and space at a premium, the touch and precision of United's play needed to be of a high order but the visitors fell into the problems of many before them as they struggled to pick a way through Birmingham's lock.
And, with United struggling for flair and fluency, it was fortune which came close to giving them the lead.
An attempted cross from Ryan Giggs looked to have flown over the head of Ben Foster but the keeper backtracked brilliantly and managed to get his fingertips to the ball to divert it against the post before his defence cleared the danger.
Other than that Foster, who was sold by United to Birmingham during the summer, was rarely called into action.
United forward Wayne Rooney was deployed on the left of midfield with the licence to go forward but his struggles continued and he looked unlikely to score his first goal from open play since March.
Although Birmingham looked secure at the back, their solidity came at the expense of a genuine threat at the other end.
When they did get a sight of goal Craig Gardner, who had latched on to a Bowyer lay-off, could only send a shot from the edge of the box high and wide.
After the break, a cleverly worked corner gave Gardner another sight of goal as the ball ricocheted to him but the Blues midfielder's snapshot from 12 yards went straight into the arms of keeper Edwin van der Sar.
McLeish pleased by home form
United and, in particular Berbatov, heeded the warning and produced the type of creativity the game had been starved of to break the deadlock.
Berbatov exchanged passes with midfielder Gibson before unerringly driving a low shot into the bottom corner of Foster's net.
It took the United striker's tally to 14 in the league and, with the home side momentarily rocking, he was only denied another when his 18 yard strike hit the post.
Birmingham boss Alex McLeish brought on the lofty Zigic to give his side an aerial threat in attack and the move eventually paid off in dramatic fashion as he helped set up the late leveller for Bowyer.
A point still proved enough for United to return to the Premier League summit on goal difference from City - although Sir Alex Ferguson's men have two games in hand over their neighbours.
90:00+4:18 The referee signals the end of the game.
90:00+2:26 Barry Ferguson fouled by Dimitar Berbatov, the ref awards a free kick. Scott Dann takes the free kick.
90:00+1:37 Wayne Rooney produces a cross, Ben Foster makes a comfortable save.
90:00+0:49 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Craig Gardner from the right by-line, Nemanja Vidic makes a clearance.
90:00+0:22 Substitution Javier Hernandez replaces Darron Gibson.
90:00+0:12 Booking Ryan Giggs goes into the book for dissent.
89:00 Assist on the goal came from Nikola Zigic.
89:00 GOAL - Lee Bowyer:Birmingham 1 - 1 Man Utd A goal is scored by Lee Bowyer from close in to the bottom right corner of the goal. Birmingham 1-1 Man Utd.
87:49 The ball is delivered by Stephen Carr.
84:40 Substitution Kevin Phillips replaces Cameron Jerome.
83:58 Unfair challenge on Nemanja Vidic by Lee Bowyer results in a free kick. Darren Fletcher restarts play with the free kick.
83:03 Outswinging corner taken by Ryan Giggs.
82:04 Corner taken by Ryan Giggs from the left by-line, Nemanja Vidic takes a shot. Fantastic save by Ben Foster.
81:24 Substitution Jean Beausejour leaves the field to be replaced by Nikola Zigic.
78:13 Jean Beausejour gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Patrice Evra. Direct free kick taken by Edwin Van der Sar.
77:18 Jean Beausejour crosses the ball, clearance by Nemanja Vidic.
75:50 Shot from just outside the box by Darron Gibson misses to the right of the target.
75:03 Scott Dann gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Dimitar Berbatov. Darren Fletcher restarts play with the free
75:03 Booking Scott Dann booked for unsporting behaviour.
73:39 Free kick awarded for a foul by Liam Ridgewell on Dimitar Berbatov. Direct free kick taken by Rio Ferdinand.
72:48 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Scott Dann by Dimitar Berbatov. Ben Foster restarts play with the free kick.
72:09 Substitution Darren Fletcher joins the action as a substitute, replacing Oliveira Anderson.
68:49 Substitution (Birmingham) makes a substitution, with Alexander Hleb coming on for Sebastian Larsson.
68:42 The ball is delivered by Craig Gardner.
67:29 Long range shot from Oliveira Anderson misses to the left of the goal.
63:59 Rafael Da Silva crosses the ball, Roger Johnson makes a clearance.
61:12 Ryan Giggs challenges Liam Ridgewell unfairly and gives away a free kick. Liam Ridgewell restarts play with the free kick.
60:13 Dimitar Berbatov has an effort at goal from outside the box hitting the post.
57:43 Darron Gibson provided the assist for the goal.
57:43 GOAL - Dimitar Berbatov:Birmingham 0 - 1 Man Utd Dimitar Berbatov finds the back of the net with a goal from inside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal.
Birmingham 0-1 Man Utd.
54:49 Ryan Giggs delivers the ball, Wayne Rooney produces a header from inside the area that goes over the crossbar.
54:29 Short corner taken by Darron Gibson.
54:05 Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Darron Gibson, clearance made by Stephen Carr.
53:00 Centre by Rafael Da Silva.
52:29 Effort from 12 yards by Craig Gardner. Edwin Van der Sar makes a comfortable save.
52:11 Short corner taken by Sebastian Larsson.
51:55 Shot from 20 yards by Lee Bowyer. Ryan Giggs gets a block in.
51:29 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Roger Johnson by Wayne Rooney. Free kick taken by Ben Foster.
46:04 Centre by Rafael Da Silva, clearance by Sebastian Larsson.
45:01 The second half begins.
45:00+2:09 The ref blows to end the first period.
45:00+1:10 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Michael Carrick by Craig Gardner. Rio Ferdinand restarts play with the free kick.
45:00+0:29 Unfair challenge on Stephen Carr by Wayne Rooney results in a free kick. Ben Foster restarts play with the free kick.
40:36 Craig Gardner takes a shot from just outside the penalty area which clears the crossbar.
40:28 The ball is swung over by Sebastian Larsson.
40:10 Oliveira Anderson concedes a free kick for a foul on Liam Ridgewell. Liam Ridgewell takes the free kick.
37:25 Shot from long distance by Craig Gardner goes wide of the left-hand upright.
36:17 Jean Beausejour crosses the ball, Rio Ferdinand manages to make a clearance.
35:46 Foul by Dimitar Berbatov on Roger Johnson, free kick awarded. Scott Dann restarts play with the free kick.
33:45 Jean Beausejour sends in a cross, Unfair challenge on Rafael Da Silva by Roger Johnson results in a free kick. Edwin Van der
Sar takes the direct free kick.
33:23 The ball is delivered by Sebastian Larsson, Dimitar Berbatov manages to make a clearance.
32:49 Corner taken right-footed by Sebastian Larsson from the left by-line to the near post, Nemanja Vidic manages to make a clearance.
31:03 Corner taken by Sebastian Larsson, clearance made by Darron Gibson.
29:39 Booking The referee cautions Nemanja Vidic for unsporting behaviour.
29:36 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Cameron Jerome by Nemanja Vidic. Craig Gardner has a direct shot on goal from
the free kick.
28:58 Ryan Giggs takes a shot. Ben Foster makes a comfortable save.
28:25 Unfair challenge on Darron Gibson by Lee Bowyer results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Rio Ferdinand.
28:25 Booking Lee Bowyer receives a yellow card.
27:02 A cross is delivered by Liam Ridgewell, save by Edwin Van der Sar.
26:02 Barry Ferguson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Oliveira Anderson. Rio Ferdinand takes the direct free kick.
26:02 Booking Craig Gardner is shown a yellow card.
25:36 Booking Oliveira Anderson receives a caution for unsporting behaviour.
22:01 Rafael Da Silva challenges Jean Beausejour unfairly and gives away a free kick. Sebastian Larsson crosses the ball from the
free kick right-footed from left wing, Ryan Giggs manages to make a clearance.
20:09 Michael Carrick gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Cameron Jerome. Sebastian Larsson fires a strike on goal
direct from the free kick.
Correction - 17:44 A cross is delivered by Ryan Giggs, Ben Foster makes a fantastic save.
17:44 The ball is crossed by Ryan Giggs.
16:48 Effort from a long way out by Wayne Rooney goes wide right of the target.
15:07 Patrice Evra sends in a cross, Roger Johnson manages to make a clearance.
11:44 Shot from 18 yards by Wayne Rooney. Save by Ben Foster.
10:16 Foul by Rafael Da Silva on Jean Beausejour, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed right-footed by Sebastian Larsson from left
channel, Dimitar Berbatov makes a clearance.
7:06 Wayne Rooney has an effort at goal from long range that goes wide left.
6:46 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Patrice Evra by Craig Gardner. Michael Carrick takes the direct free kick.
3:11 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Patrice Evra by Sebastian Larsson. Nemanja Vidic restarts play with the free
1:43 Sebastian Larsson crosses the ball, Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Cameron Jerome goes harmlessly over
0:13 Lee Bowyer is penalised for handball and concedes a free kick. Rio Ferdinand restarts play with the free kick.
0:00 The match begins.
Live text and data provided by The Press Association.
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