Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is relishing the prospect of a duel for the title with arch-rivals Manchester United.
The two Manchester clubs are now level at the top of the Barclays Premier League after leaders City were held to a goalless draw at West Brom and United thrashed Wigan.
City's goal difference is still five better but even that is a diminished figure after successive 5-0 wins from the champions.
The warnings from Old Trafford are clear but Kompany is all the more excited about a title race he expects to be tight right to the end.
The Belgium defender said: "We knew it would be close, there was no doubt that would be the case.
"We just need to pick up the points we should pick up.
"It is going to be an interesting second half to the season.
"To be honest, I wouldn't have liked anyone else to be battling for the title with.
"It is United - a good way to battle for the title.
"Hopefully it would give a special flavour to that trophy if we could bring it home."
City lacked their usual bite at The Hawthorns as, after scoring 53 goals in their first 17 games, they were shut out for the first time this season.
Yet they still had a number of chances to take a grip on the game and Kompany was not concerned about the performance.
The 25-year-old said: "I thought we had a decent game.
"I have seen far worse performances coming to places like this.
"I think we were just unlucky we didn't score that goal."
Mario Balotelli went closest for City when he hit the bar from long range early in the second half.
The Italian earlier had a goal disallowed for offside and saw a free-kick into the wall bobble wide.
David Silva also spurned two good opportunities as he scooped over from in front of goal in the first half and later shot at Ben Foster.
West Brom were starved of possession at times but they were well organised in defence and made the most of the ball when they had it.
Captain Chris Brunt fired wide early on and Paul Scharner tested Joe Hart before Shane Long headed wide from six yards and Jerome Thomas hit the post.
Kompany said: "Their defending was brilliant as well and you have got to give credit to them.
"You always encounter teams like this during a season, who on a good day can bring a lot of trouble to you.
"I am not bitter about it. Credit is due where credit is due and we had chances."
The result was an undoubted setback for ambitious City ahead of a tough January which begins with a trip to Sunderland on New Year's Day and a clash with Liverpool two days later.
They could even slip to second before their next game as United are back in action first.
West Brom head coach Roy Hodgson also believes their fight with Sir Alex Ferguson's men will be tight.
Hodgson said: "I think it will be tough right through to the end.
"In some ways the riches are on the blue side and the experience and quality and talent is equally as good on the red side.
"Alex has been unlucky with injuries and I don't think he can afford many more, while City could virtually put out two Premier League teams.
"But the impressive thing about Manchester United is they had just put five past Fulham and now they have done it again.
"They are flying. The exciting thing for people like me is it will be a fascinating duel.
"The rest are slipping a bit already and it is looking like United or City even at this early stage."
Hodgson was impressed with the discipline and workrate of his players, which built on an impressive win at Newcastle.
One to catch the eye was right-back Billy Jones, who came on for the injured Steven Reid at Newcastle and retained his place.
Hodgson said of the summer signing from Preston: "I thought Billy was very good.
"He must be really pleased to have had two such stern tests at the start of his time with the club.
"If he can do well in those two games he should do well in the others."
Baggies midfielder Youssuf Mulumbu is to undergo a scan after further discomfort from a niggling groin injury that forced him off after 81 minutes.