A spectacular bicycle kick late in the game from New York star Thierry Henry, put the Impact in a hole they couldn't get out of.
Henry's goal in the 88th minute was his second of the game as the Red Bulls won 2-1 over the Impact in MLS play on Wednesday night.
Montreal's lone goal was scored in second half stoppage time by Marco Di Vaio, who almost tied the match a minute later, hitting both goalposts on one shot.
The Impact looked every bit the equals of New York, controlling long portions of play and knocking the ball around with confidence. Montreal held an edge in possession and attempts on goal, but tentativeness in the final third hurt their chances to take three points in a match where they were the better side.
"Since the first half we had a lot of tactic on the field, it was very good," said Impact head coach Marco Schallibaum. "The Red Bulls didn't know what to do, we were good on the field and we had our chances, two or three, the only thing is we didn't [score] — that's the difference.
"If we would've scored the first goal it would've been a different game, but I'm proud of this team because they didn't give up. I think they were on the same level, maybe even better than Red Bulls today but in the end all there is is the result."
New York (6-4-2), which is first in the Eastern Conference, has won four in a row while Montreal (5-2-2) is three points behind in fourth but with three games in hand.
In a sluggish first half, Montreal was a bit tentative and they struggled to find any offensive flow without Di Vaio, the team's leading scorer who started the match on the bench. Schallibaum said that he chose to re-insert Sanna Nyassi into the starting lineup to give Di Vaio a rest during what has been a busy fixture schedule for Montreal.
It was Nyassi who had Montreal's two best chances of the first half, both within a minute of each other.
In the 21st minute, Andres Romero from the right side fed a ball across the Red Bulls penalty area but Nyassi's effort clanged off the crossbar. Then moments later, Romero was nearly the provider again as Nyassi was nearly sent in alone on New York's goal but Robles made a heroic charge to smother the opportunity.
At times it seemed as if the visitors would steal a draw if not a win. Throughout the second half, the Red Bulls looked bewildered as the Impact pressed for an equalizer and threw numbers into the attack, overlapping particularly well and putting the New York backline under constant pressure. Half chances fell first to midfielder Justin Mapp who fired wide and then Nyassi who had a soft effort turned away by Robles early in the second half.
"Obviously disappointed to give up a goal right before half time and then still thought we came out with the right mentality in the second half," Mapp said. "Had a majority of the ball, created some half-chances. Unfortunately didn't get one till the end when we were down two. Definitely felt like we let some points slip away."
The Impact held the ball for nearly 60 per cent of the second half and peppered the New York goal with 11 shots. The match was put away in the 88th minute off a moment of brilliance from former French international Henry, who produced perhaps the goal of the year in MLS.
A corner kick from Brazilian midfielder Juninho was flicked on by Markus Holgersson and then hammered home by Henry off a splendid bicycle kick effort.
"It was a good match. We competed for 90 minutes," Di Vaio said. "We competed out there, we played a good game."