Manchester City clambered to the top of the table but this was an ascent without oxygen: thrilling, breathless and fraught with risk. When the scoreboard, sky blue against the black of the night, showed them above Manchester United, the cheer rolled around Eastlands, laced with comments that at 4-1 up City should never have come close to surrendering two points.
This was not the "Boring Boring City" who had roused the Emirates to fury at the start of the month by going to Arsenal with no ambition higher than a goalless draw, but a Manchester City who are truer to the club's history.
There will be a part of Carlos Tevez that will always yearn to be back at Boca Juniors receiving ovations from the Bombonera, but by choosing to remain at Manchester City he is the recipient of a similar unbounded love. Just as his one-time idol, Diego Maradona, was more at home inspiring the dispossessed of Napoli than he was at Barcelona, so Tevez's natural habitat is a club like City, fighting for their own place in the sun. The standing ovation he received when he was brought off was heartfelt, the performance that inspired it had mingled effort with brilliance.
A 2-1 defeat at Molineux in October had triggered a week of fevered speculation that Roberto Mancini's time at Manchester City might be drawing to a close. The mood at Eastlands is calmer now, but for the first 20 minutes Wolverhampton Wanderers, who had beaten Chelsea and whose victory at Liverpool had begun the chain of events that had brought Roy Hodgson's regime to its knees, were palpably the better side.
Their opening goal, stabbed home by Nenad Milijas, may have been messy but their set-plays had been inventive and Kolo Touré's equaliser,which was half-saved by Wayne Hennessy and ricocheted into the net from the back of David Jones's boots, was slightly undeserved. Had Aleksandar Kolarov not hurled himself in front of Matthew Jarvis's shot, Wolves might have been two up.
What followed was Manchester City at their most irresistible, the team who had torn Fulham to pieces at Craven Cottage. Tevez's first goal was arguably the finest he has scored since the blue "Welcome to Manchester" poster in Deansgate so infuriatedSir Alex Ferguson and carried echoes of Ricky Villa's score against Manchester City in the 1981 FA Cup final.
Tevez's goal was delivered at a quicker pace. There were three gold shirts who might have made a tacklebut he twisted past Stephen Hunt and rolled the ball past Richard Stearman before shooting home.
His second, a header that thundered down from beneath the bar, was more conventional but, in between, he had helped to set up Manchester City's third, finding Edin Dzeko, whose debut was encouraging given thefact that the Bundesliga's winter break meant he had not played for nearly a month. The Bosnian delayed his pass beautifullyand Yaya, running through, became the second Touré to find the net.
The Wolves manager,Mick McCarthy, who had been a central defender when Manchester City were a very different club, acknowledged he would have struggled to lay a boot on Tevez. "We have lost because there was a little Argentinian who waltzed through with magic feet," he said. "But I have to say that most teams in our situation, 4-1 down, would have laid down and had their arses slapped. But there were a few squeaky bums in the stadium when they held up five minutes of stoppage time."
Indeed there were. Mancini had removed Kolo Touré as a precaution with Tuesday's FA Cup tie against Leicester in mind and Joleon Lescott, facing the club where he made his name, looked dreadfully out of sorts.
The push on Kevin Doyle that gave Wolves a penalty and a route back into the game was summed up in one word by his manager – "stupid". Then Ronald Zubar, who had already struck the crossbar with one header, struck again, and although Nigel de Jong cleared it, the ball had crossed the line and Manchester City had the familiar feeling of a wall boring into their backs.
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the match: Tevez
Match rating: 8/10