With Stuart Pearce back at the City Ground for the first time in another team's colours, this always promised to be a thunderous occasion, even without the earth tremor that had safety stewards checking the stadium for structural damage before the match could go ahead.
For Forest goalkeeper Darren Ward, however, it will be remembered for damage of a different kind inflicted on his own team after the extraordinary moment that ultimately cost Forest two points and a place in the top six.
Both goals came in the first eight minutes but the endeavour that gained the advantage for the home side was undone within 60 seconds by a misunderstanding as comical as the season is likely to witness.
Rolling the ball out of his area in the direction of teammate Riccardo Scimeca, Ward turned his back to return to his goal. But Scimeca, walking in the opposite direction, was entirely unaware of the goalkeeper's intentions and before either could react, City striker Shaun Goater spotted what had happened and knocked the ball into the net. It was his 16th goal in 17 games this season and he will never have an easier one.
"Maybe we should have won 1-0," Forest manager Paul Hart said afterwards. "But these things happen. I have not spoken to Darren about the incident and I don't intend to. He has been magnificent for us this season and he made two important saves tonight." Forest had gone ahead through captain Chris Bart-Williams, who drove home his fourth goal of the campaign after City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver had been able only to parry a strongly struck low cross from the left by full-back Jim Brennan.
The red-faced Ward spent much of the other 82 minutes desperately hoping one of is red-shirted colleagues would render his howler to be academic, but in an even contest neither side could turn promising build-ups into a second goal.
In a frenetic second half, Forest's Gareth Williams twice forced Weaver to save from long-range shots while, at the other end, only a last-gasp block by Brennan denied Darren Huckerby a clear run on goal and Goater failed by a layer of boot polish to turn in a low driven cross by Richard Dunne. Pearce, his usual uncompromising self, drew the loudest applause at the final whistle and probably deserved it. "A point here is a good one but we could have done better," said City manager Kevin Keegan.
Goals: Bart-Williams (7) 1-0; Goater (8) 1-1.
Nottingham Forest (4-3-1-2): Ward; Louis-Jean, Hjelde, Scimeca, Brennan; Prutton, Williams, Jenas; Bart-Williams; John (Westcarr 80), Johnson (Reid 80). Substitutes not used: Roche (gk), Edwards, Bopp.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Dunne, Mettomo, Howey, Pearce; Etuhu, Wiekens (Granville 55), Horlock; Benarbia; Goater, Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Colosimo, Granville, Wright-Phillips, Dickov.
Referee: M Brandwood (Staffs).
Bookings: Forest: Hjelde. City: Mettomo.
Man of the match: Pearce.