Javier Hernandez preserved Manchester United's unbeaten start to the season with an 81st-minute equaliser as Liverpool were held 1-1 at Anfield on Saturday.
Steven Gerrard had put Kenny Dalglish's side within sight of victory after marking his first start for seven months by firing his side ahead.
Gerrard had not started since undergoing groin surgery after Liverpool overcame United 3-1 in the corresponding fixture last season.
But Gerrard's fairytale return was ruined when substitute Hernandez rescued a point nine minutes from time for United, who surpringly started without leading scorer Wayne Rooney.
United did not start with Rooney, who came on as a late substitute, because Sir Alex Ferguson said he was devastated by his England Euro 2012 suspension.
This was the first league meeting between the two sides since United moved to a record 19 titles ahead of Liverpool's 18.
United manager Ferguson had labelled the fixture as the biggest in world club football yet there was little to excite the crowd during a fast and frantic start in which both sides struggled to retain possession.
Dalglish made one change from the side that had overcome neighbours Everton before the international break, with Andy Carroll, who scored in the 2-0 win at Goodison Park, making way for Gerrard.
Yet even the return of the captain struggled to raise the hosts, who were unfortunate to escape falling behind in the 16th minute when Phil Jones headed wastefully wide from Patrice Evra's fine cross.
Jones was playing in midfield in a United line-up which showed no fewer than six changes from the side that overcame Norwich 2-0 in their last game on October 1.
While the absence of Rooney from the side was the biggest surprise, Ferguson also opted to start with Mexican striker Hernandez and Portuguese winger Nani on the bench.
Rooney, Hernandez and Nani had scored 14 of United's 24 league goals ahead of this game so it was little surprise that the visitors failed to find the net before half-time.
The best chance of the half fell to Luis Suarez, the Liverpool striker denied by David de Gea in the 34th minute after Charlie Adam's shot had cannoned off United defender Jonny Evans into the Uruguay international's path.
American basketball player LeBron James, who became a minority stakeholder in Liverpool in April, was in the crowd to watch the club for the first time.
And the Miami Heat forward was left frustrated as home appeals for a penalty were waved away by referee Andre Marriner after a 52nd-minute header by Dirk Kuyt, who scored a hat-trick in the corresponding fixture last season, appeared to strike Evans on the arm.
The longer the game remained goalless the louder the chants from United's fans calling for Rooney's introduction became.
Then came the goal that rocked Anfield to its foundations.
Marriner had no hesitation awarding a free-kick after Adam crashed to the floor following a challenge just outside the penalty area by Ferdinand, who had been booked in the first half.
It was as though Gerrard had never been away as the England international found the net with a trademark free-kick after Ryan Giggs inexplicably peeled away from the wall.
But Hernandez rescued a point when he nodded home from close range.