Manchester United relied on a first-half own goal by Titus Bramble to beat Sunderland 1-0 on Saturday, securing a seventh straight Premier League win to inch the runaway leaders closer to a 20th English title.

Robin van Persie’s shot in the 27th minute was heading wide but Bramble stuck out a leg and deflected the ball into the corner of his own net, rewarding United for its early dominance at the Stadium of Light.

The visitors, who came into the match holding a 15-point cushion at the top, sat back in the second half but held on relatively comfortably. Only the biggest meltdown in Premier League history would stop them reclaiming the title off second-place Manchester City.

United has become the first top-division team in the history of English football to win 25 of its first 30 league games, and it has a real chance of breaking Chelsea’s record from the 2004-05 season of 95 points from a single campaign. The team has 77 points with eight games left.

United has bad recent memories of playing Sunderland away two seasons ago, a broken sewage pipe left a foul stench in its dressing room while last season, Alex Ferguson’s team won 1-0 on the final weekend but had the title ripped from them by City in extraordinary, last-gasp circumstances. United can almost seal the title with a home win over City in its next match on April 8.

“It was an important win,” Ferguson said, “as it means we go into the Manchester City game with at least a 15-point lead.”

The result: Manchester United 1 (Titus Bramble 27-og) bt Sunderland 0.

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