Manchester United slipped to a first defeat in 10 FA Women's Championship games, as the hosts won a hard-fought contest in front of their record attendance at New Ferens Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Wildcats had already proved to be stubborn opponents for Casey Stoney's pioneering side in this inaugural campaign, taking the first league points off the Reds with a goalless draw at Leigh Sports Village in late September and then, at the same venue last Wednesday night, restricting United to just Mollie Green's first-minute strike in a slender 1-0 Continental Tyres League Cup win.
This 3-1 victory for Durham therefore completes a full set of results between the two teams but the scoreline seemed slightly flattering, given the final goal was scored on the break in the 88th minute when the game had been very much in the balance. Zoe Ness netted that one; Beth Hepple's penalty, awarded for handball, had restored the home side's lead on the hour mark after the teams had gone in at the interval on level terms at 1-1.
Hepple had also been involved in the 22nd-minute opener for Durham, taking the free-kick that led to team-mate Sarah Wilson claiming the final touch as the ball beat Siobhan Chamberlain in the United goal.
The Reds had previously come close to making the breakthrough, with a cross from Alex Greenwood and shot by Ella Toone both testing the Wildcats' keeper Hannah Reid before Katie Zelem fired narrowly wide.
Some fine work by Lizzie Arnot on the left wing and a lay-off by Charlie Devlin teed up Toone for an off-target attempt but the same attacker had more joy with the next opportunity five minutes later, volleying in low to Reid's right after a long ball was headed on.
Toone's equaliser in the 42nd minute was no more than her team deserved and many observers would have backed league leaders United to go on and take all three points in the second half.
Jess Sigsworth entered the fray as a half-time replacement for Arnot but it was Durham who created the first notable chance after the break with Nicki Gears forcing Chamberlain to make a good save.
Parity was only maintained for a further minute or so until the referee spotted a handball offence in the area and United star Green was booked in the immediate aftermath.
Hepple kept her cool to convert the penalty and give Durham another lead they would hold and eventually build on through Ness, despite the Reds' midweek match-winner Green trying her luck from distance and Stoney freshening up her attack with Lauren James and later Leah Galton replacing Toone and Kirsty Hanson respectively.
United: Chamberlain; Smith, A.Turner, M.Turner, Greenwood; Green, Zelem, Toone (James 70); Hanson (Galton 77), Devlin, Arnot (Sigsworth 46).
Substitutes not used: Ramsey, Harris, Hartley, Palmer.
Goals: Wilson 22, Hepple pen. 59, Ness 88; Toone 42.
Attendance: 912 - a home record for Durham Women FC.
The Reds have one more chance to end this historic calendar year with a win, when making the short trip to face Willie Kirk's Everton Ladies on Thursday 13 December in the Continental Tyres League Cup. Kick-off at Southport FC is 19:00 GMT.
United's next home game follows a three-week break for Christmas. London Bees will be the visitors to Leigh Sports Village on Sunday 6 January 2019 (kick-off 12:00 GMT). Match tickets are on sale at www.manutd.com/womenstickets and priced at £5 (£2.50 for U16s/65+).