Man City deservedly on brink of title glory
Manchester City must win at home against QPR - fighting for their Premier League lives near the bottom of the table - and avoid a mathematical meltdown of goal difference next Sunday to win their first title for 44 years.
It all comes down to that.
It is worth stating that simple fact to underscore the message to fiercely loyal supporters whose natural default position is to believe it is in their club's DNA to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Roberto Mancini is likely to be celebrating a Premier League title in a week's time. Photo: Getty
What it means to City, downtrodden by Manchester United's recent years of unbroken success under Sir Alex Ferguson, was written on the face of club legend Mike Summerbee as he sat alongside Patrick Vieira in the stands at Newcastle United on Sunday.
The great former winger, a vocal champion of City and always ready to take the fight to United even in the fallow years, looked emotional and close to tears as Roberto Mancini's side showed the touch of champions to impressively win 2-0 on Tyneside.
Summerbee or "Buzzer" to the still adoring City fans, was no doubt letting his mind wander back to that final day of the 1968 season when he was on the same ground and scored in a 4-3 win at Newcastle that brought the title to Maine Road under the guidance of manager Joe Mercer and the wonderful maverick coach Malcolm Allison.
As City closed out the win that pushes them to within touching distance of being champions of England once more, and making it even sweeter for the likes of Summerbee by taking it off Manchester United, he looked lost in thought.
The long and barren years, the memories of the mocking banner that used to hang from one corner of the Stretford End recording City's years without a trophy until they won the FA Cup last season, will feel an age away with victory against QPR and former manager Mark Hughes next week.
City's fans will, of course, still fear the worst and QPR's own plight ensures a scrap, but they are in a position they will have dreamed about. One home win equals the title for a team that has only dropped two points (to Sunderland) on their own territory this season.
The trip to Newcastle was meant to be the big obstacle, the test of nerve that told us whether Mancini's man had what potential champions need. It was an examination passed in the most impressive fashion with great credit to players and their manager.
In the back of all City minds would have been the knowledge that a draw was always likely to push the door open just enough for United to burst through and claim title number 20.
The first half brought frustration as City enjoyed possession but could not create workable opportunities against Alan Pardew's fine Newcastle team, who have brought an added element of surprise to this Premier League season.
As the second half ticked away, City could have been forgiven for rushing their work in the increasingly urgency to secure the goal they needed. The fact that they did not, that they remained utterly composed, showed the confidence resulting in recovery from a position where their title hopes looked snuffed out after defeat at Arsenal in early April which left United with an eight-point advantage.
And leadership came from the sidelines as well as on the pitch as Mancini made a crucial tactical adjustment that gave Yaya Toure the licence and freedom to score the goals that mean City are almost at their destination.
The removal of Samir Nasri for Nigel de Jong just after the hour could have been construed as a negative move. It was anything but, the Netherlands midfield man anchoring things as Toure, a superb footballer and supreme athlete, did the damage.
The nerve and thought processes of Mancini remained as clear as that of his players. No panic, simply the passing and probing that brought the thoroughly deserved and desired result.
Mancini has had his doubters but he has held City together with great experience and wisdom in these closing weeks, despite pushing the bounds of credibility with his constant assurances that United remain title favourites. Indeed that record is so stuck it may take some breaking if City do win against QPR.
The wild card has been United's own unexpected collapse, losing at Wigan Athletic and conceding a two-goal lead in the last seven minutes to draw 4-4 at home to Everton before City won what looks to be that defining derby last Monday.
Mancini had to keep City's mood high enough to be in a position to take advantage of any slips. He did.
Toure's precise finish from 25 yards and another from close in sent City's supporters, tucked away in a corner of the giant stadium, into ecstasy as all nerves were soothed - at least until they started to ponder what may unfold at the Etihad next Sunday.
Toure was epitome of the power that saw City through while Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott once again proved their pedigree by giving Newcastle's front men of Demba Ba and the prolific Papiss Cisse nothing to bite on.
The Etihad will be an emotional place next Sunday - an outpouring that has been building for 44 years could be released, although no-one dare underestimate QPR.
And it is also the day City's Abu Dhabi owners had in their minds when they embarked on the petrodollars-fuelled refit of this great old club.
Old fears and suspicions will nag away at the back of those who have known plenty of suffering at the hands of their beloved City since the greats such as Summerbee, Francis Lee, Mike Doyle, Neil Young and Colin Bell lifted the championship all those years ago.
It is in City's hands now. And the manner of victory at Newcastle was that of a team that knew its moment had arrived.