(CNN) -- Teenager Federico Macheda scored his second match winning goal in the space of a week as Manchester United stayed top of the English Premier League while Liverpool and Chelsea kept pace with home wins.
Macheda (left) is congratulated by Rooney after getting the decisive touch at Sunderland.
Liverpool's 4-0 thrashing of Blackburn in the early kickoff with Fernando Torres scoring twice left them temporarily at the head of affairs, but United responded with a vital victory at Sunderland which leaves the home side still deep in relegation trouble.
Paul Scholes headed home Wayne Rooney's 19th minute cross to put United ahead, but Sunderland hit back as Kenwyne Jones equalized early in the second half.
United manager Alex Ferguson responded by introducing Cristiano Ronaldo and Macheda from the substitutes' bench and it was the 17-year-old Italian who worked his magic again.
He had been on the pitch less than a minute when he helped home a Michael Carrick shot to earn the defending champions the three points.
"He has got the instinct of a striker," Ferguson told Sky Sports News as he reflected on Macheda's quick reaction to score.
"He got involved in the match straight away, that's of great credit to the kid," he added.
The former Lazio trainee also scored a sensational injury-time winner last Sunday as the Red Devils beat Aston Villa and it leaves United a point clear of Liverpool with a game in hand.
Chelsea, who beat Bolton 4-3 after leading 4-0 at Stamford Bridge, are four points adrift having played a game more.
Arsenal came from a goal behind to thrash Wigan 4-1 at the JJB Stadium and cement fourth place.
Theo Walcott scored Arsenal's equalizer with January signing Andrey Arshavin also on target.
Liverpool's title challenge was kept very much alive as they bounced back form a 3-1 midweek Champions League defeat to Chelsea with an easy home win.
Commemorations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough stadium tragedy where 96 Liverpool fans died were held before the kick off at Anfield.
The match was only five minutes old when Spanish star Torres struck and after 15 minutes he had grabbed a second.
Relegation battlers Blackburn offered little and late goals from Daniel Agger and David Ngog improved Liverpool's goal difference to plus 39 which could prove vital in the title chase.
Chelsea were coasting to an easy win at Stamford Bridge as Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba (2) and Frank Lampard struck but Andy O'Brien, Chris Basham and Matt Taylor converted for the visitors who so nearly stole a point in a frantic finish.
In other matches, Tottenham kept alive their hopes of European football next season with a 1-0 home win over West Ham with Roman Pavlyuchenko scoring in the second half.
Second-bottom Middlesbrough gave themselves hope of avoiding the drop with a 3-1 home win over fellow strugglers Hull while Portsmouth and basement side West Bromwich Albion drew 2-2 at Fratton Park.
The late kick off saw a pulsating match at the Britannia Stadium as Stoke were held 1-1 by Alan Shearer's Newcastle.
Abdoulaye Faye headed the home side ahead in the first half and Stoke had good chances to stretch the advantage.
But substitute Andy Carroll headed home an 81st minute equalizer to give the visitors a relegation lifeline.
They stay in the bottom three but cut the gap on Sunderland to two points with Blackburn and Hull four points ahead with six games remaining.