'Noisy Neighbours' kick-start derby party
"Joined by geography - separated by success" read the T-shirt commissioned by Manchester United fans before the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City. And no one can argue against the accuracy of the statement.
Manchester City had to start closing the gap somewhere and, with the strains of "Blue Moon" echoing in London's Saturday night air, there seemed no better place than Wembley after a deserved victory ended United's hopes of repeating their 1999 treble feat.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, in a withering put-down, once described City as the "noisy neighbours" and the sky blue wave of elation sweeping around one half of Wembley was happy to live up to that label after Yaya Toure's winner sent them to their first FA Cup Final for 30 years.
The next step on the road to rehabilitation and renewed respect for City is to actually win a trophy, an act that will end another long-running taunt, the ticking banner tucked in a corner of Old Trafford's Stretford End reminding their rivals that it is 35 years since their last major honour.
City manager Roberto Mancini was swift to deliver the warning that the main business still needs to be concluded back at Wembley next month against either Bolton or Stoke, but the Italian was happy to acknowledge the potentially landmark nature of victory against United.
He said: "It was very important for the club because we beat a great team like Manchester United in an important game. Now we need to win another important game in the FA Cup Final."
If City and their supporters nursed an inferiority complex about the glittering successes that have rolled into Old Trafford during the barren years at Maine Road and Eastlands, then winning at Wembley on a day when Ferguson showed his commitment by fielding almost his strongest available side will at least provide hope that financial firepower off the pitch can be matched by substance and silverware on it.
It was, some might say, typical City that a performance at Liverpool that did not simply scrape the bottom of the barrel but carved a giant hole right through it, was followed up by one that contained so much to admire.
In the 3-0 defeat at Liverpool, City's players played like men who had only been introduced seconds before kick-off - and men who did not like each other either. Here there was a togetherness that survived 30 minutes of United domination to show a unity and attacking ambition that is occasionally mislaid by this expensively assembled group.
Mancini was able to recall Nigel de Jong and David Silva after the Anfield fiasco but even the return of such an influential pair did not fully explain an approach and performance that was unrecognisable from Monday's surrender.
The Italian even cast aside his own trademark cool in the moment of victory, coming not long after the most spectacular touchline rant at, inevitably, Mario Balotelli, after the temperamental youngster carelessly cast aside precious possession in the dying seconds.
Showing a turn of pace that rolled back the years to his wonderful playing career, Mancini sprinted from his seat to the edge of the technical area to bellow in Balotelli's ear while jumping up and down on the spot and waving his arms in manic tick-tack fashion.
Balotelli does that to a manager. He does not do "under the radar". It was not the first censure from Mancini in his direction and will not be the last. The £25m striker played his part in the win and only let himself down with needless goading towards United's fans in victory that particularly enraged Rio Ferdinand and Anderson.
United will rightly point to two early misses by Dimitar Berbatov that might have altered the entire complexion of the semi-final, but once City reached the half-hour mark unscathed they blossomed and merited the win for their overall supremacy.
The winning goal after 52 minutes summed up the emerging pattern of the game at that moment it was conceived. Michael Carrick, who has a nasty habit of helping to concede poor goals in big games, was robbed in possession by the sharper, stronger Toure, who eased his mountainous way past Nemanja Vidic to score.
Scholes's red card for a high challenge on Pablo Zabaleta added to his collection of "red-mist" moments Photo: Reuters
Carrick excelled in the two Champions League games against Chelsea and started well at Wembley - only to go into rapid deterioration after playing his part in City's winner.
United's response was limited to a Nani free-kick turned on to the bar by City keeper Joe Hart and a senseless high and late challenge by Paul Scholes on Pablo Zabaleta. It was the kind of incident that happens too often in the career of this wonderful player and cannot be excused by the "he can't tackle" defence traditionally used as the flimsy shield for his recklessness.
Ferguson said: "We've seen over his career Paul has had unbelievable moments - he's one of the greatest players this club has ever had. But he has his red-mist moments and he caught the boy on the thigh."
The manager might have had a "red-mist moment" of his own later reflecting on how United surrendered control too easily after exerting domination in the opening exchanges. Ferguson made his feelings clear about how much he wanted victory against City with the strength of the team he selected, a factor that will only add to City's pleasure.
It is hardly a fatal blow to a season that still has the Premier League and Champions League to offer, but a defeat by the rivals they have been able to keep firmly in their place for so long will wound Ferguson, United and their supporters.
City and their followers have craved days like these. This is what the club's Abu Dhabi rulers had in mind when they bankrolled the new era at Eastlands, when they brought Mancini to City.
And the expensive assets delivered when they needed them. Vincent Kompany was magnificent in defence, as he has been for most of the season, while David Silva provided the subtle touches and Toure the power and poise - and most of all the game's decisive moment.
If City were also looking for added satisfaction, it can come in the fact that they reached the FA Cup Final without their talisman, tone-setter and main marksman Carlos Tevez. As tired legs took their toll on United, they missed the suspended Wayne Rooney more than City missed the Argentine.
Mancini shed his natural conservatism amid the wreckage of Anfield on Monday to promise City would reach the FA Cup Final and next season's Champions League. Brave words, but phase one has been delivered.
Now City must take the final step and claim the trophy that has eluded them for so long - going some way towards putting the odd Old Trafford t-shirt seller out of business while stripping the Stretford End of one of its most familiar pieces of decoration.
In doing so, the neighbours can make themselves an even bigger noise in Manchester.