Manchester United stopped the rot as captain Bruno Fernandez struck in the 90th minute for a 1-0 victory at Fulham in the early Premier League game at Fulham on Saturday.
The game was petering out into a lacklustre stalemate when Fernandes latched on to a loose ball on the edge of the area and drilled a pinpoint low shot inside the post.
Successive 3-0 home defeats in United’s worst start to a season since 1962 had piled pressure on manager Erik ten Hag and victory at Craven Cottage will release that somewhat.
But while the victory was welcome, questions remain about where United are heading under the Dutchman after another rather shapeless display.
A third successive narrow away win in the league lifted United to sixth with 18 points from 11 games ahead of the rest of the weekend programme.
Fulham, who had 18 goals attempts but only two on target, are down in 14th with 12 points.
Fernandes has come under fire in recent weeks with former Manchester United title winners Gary Neville and Roy Keane both suggesting he should have the armband taken away after some petulant performances.
But he answered back with a moment of class, punishing Fulham’s inability to clear their area with a deft control and turn before sending his shot beyond Bernd Leno.
“Everyone knows the situation is not the best, we lost the last two games and it wasn’t the performances we wanted to give or the results but today it was a different game,” the Portuguese said.
“We had to give something different and we delivered. It has to build confidence but we have to understand that we can still do more and that it’s about getting results every time we play.”
WILLIAN FULHAM’S BRIGHTEST SPARK
Fulham have now lost their lost four games against United, including three times last season.
“Really difficult for us to take, it’s the same old story,” manager Marco Silva said.
“We were the better team overall. But we lost emotional control and made three mistakes in 10 seconds and were punished.”
The only talking point of a mundane first half was Scott McTominay’s disallowed goal for United after seven minutes.
Christian Eriksen’s flighted free kick was turned across the area by Alejandro Garnacho and McTominay arrived to convert.
But United’s celebrations were cut short, eventually, after a drawn-out VAR check with referee John Brooks going to the monitor to rule it out on the basis that Harry Maguire, who was initially offside, was interfering with play.
That was about the sum total of United’s attacking threat with a tame Fernandes effort easily saved by Leno.
Willian was Fulham’s brightest spark with an early shot blocked and some dangerous balls into the area while visiting keeper Onana made a sharp save from Harry Wilson.
A stadium staff announcement that “Mr Bishop had left the stadium” was greeted with chuckles with the majority of the lunchtime crowd tempted to join him.
It was not a lot better in the early stages of the second half but things livened up with Onana forced into superb saves in the space of a frantic minute.
First he palmed away a swerving effort by Wilson and then reacted well to keep out Joao Palhinha’s effort before Rodrigo Muniz headed over as United began to creak.
A 0-0 draw would have done little to lift the United gloom but Fernandes at least gave the visiting fans something to cheer with his well-timed intervention.