A late leveller from Diego Costa cancelled out a superb Jesse Lingard opener and ensured that Chelsea remain unbeaten under the temporary stewardship of Guus Hiddink.
A draw and vibrant attacking performance at the champions would normally be considered a superb result, but this felt like a defeat having had victory in our grasp.
The result left United six points off fourth place in the league, but the spirit and purpose that underpinned this performance suggested all is not lost.
Costa rescued a point that Chelsea will feel they probably deserved, having been kept out on numerous occasions by the again outstanding David de Gea.
The Portuguese striker- on his first career appearance against United- went close early on with a header and then Nemanja Matic forced a fine save from De Gea on the half-hour mark in a bright start from Chelsea.
Marouane Fellaini evaded his marker to head wide five minutes before the break and then Matteo Darmian's dangerous cross across the box evaded everyone when a touch would have taken it in.
United started the second half on the front foot: in-form captain Wayne Rooney saw his 20-yarder clawed away by Courtois, Anthony Martial lashed narrowly wide and the Belgian goalkeeper saved well from Lingard as United ramped up the pressure.
The young winger was not to be denied for long, though, as he put United ahead with a brilliant acrobatic finish from an excellent cross by the again impressive Cameron Borthwick-Jackson on the hour.
The two young home-grown talents linked up superbly in the midweek win over Stoke and did so again here, as Lingard profited from the ever improving left-back's dangerous delivery for his fourth of the season.
To their credit, the home side responded positively and De Gea proved pivotal as the visitors clung to their lead- with both Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas denied by the Spaniard as Hiddink's side hit back.
United looked set for set for the win but were ultimately pegged back in the first of six added minutes when Costa latched on to a weighted Fabregas pass to round man of the match De Gea and slot in.
Remarkably, Chelsea almost won it the fourth added on minute as Fabregas and Costa linked up again but the latter's well-hit effort was blocked by the sprawling Dave.
Overall team performance: 7.5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: David de Gea
(Your tekkers is top drawer but your celebration need works, Jesse!)