Pearce was the immediate target for Andy Cole once his exquisite turn and shot beat Portsmouth's goalkeeper Sander Westerveld to complete City's comeback on Saturday, sparking a mob celebration that ended with Pearce, punching the air as though it was Spain at Wembley all over again, leaping on top.
"I really should have stepped out of the way and let the players enjoy their moment, although that was the first time in 20 years that Coley has shown any warmth or emotion towards me. Once again, I'm living and learning," he reflected.
Pearce's team reinforced suspicions they could be this season's Everton with a slender yet deserved win. Next up is the Manchester derby, and within an hour of moving into second, and thus ensuring City will be above United when they meet on 10 September, Pearce was inviting the biggest test of his reign.
"They are a fantastic team and Sir Alex [Ferguson] is a fantastic example to a young manager like me trying to make their way in the game. I cannot wait for it" he admitted. With Cole impressing in an attack that cost under £2m, City will go to Old Trafford with rare optimism.
It needed the shock of John Viafara scoring with Portsmouth's first attempt on David James' goal for the City midfield to discover the urgency to confirm their superiority, with Claudio Reyna seizing on a Westerveld error to level before Cole spun to score the winner four minutes later.
Pearce said: "City is the ideal club for Coley. If he had left Fulham for any other club I don't think it would have been the same for him, but coming to City, Manchester United's rivals, has given him that extra edge. He would be inspired by running out at Old Trafford and getting booed."
Cole admitted: "I have thought about what the reception will be and I did have some reservations about coming to City, I'm not going to lie. But I am a professional footballer and though I enjoyed my time at Manchester United I wanted to play for another big club. I want to finish my career with a big club and opportunities like this don't come along very often."
Degan Stefanovic and Westerveld, at least until he spilled Joey Barton's cross at the feet of Reyna, offered rare pockets of resistance, but Portsmouth's brittle nature was evident long before they succumbed.
Of most concern for the unrewarded travelling support will be Alain Perrin's assertion that "if we continue to play like this I will be confident for the future".
Goals: Viafara (52) 0-1; Reyna (66) 1-1; Cole (69) 2-1.
Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills (Sun, 46), Dunne, Onuoha, Thatcher; Sinclair, Reyna, Barton, Musampa; Cole, Vassell. Substitutes not used: Sibierski, De Vlieger (gk), Jordan, Wright-Phillips.
Portsmouth (5-4-1): Westerveld; Griffin (Skopelitis, 85), Priske, O'Brien, Stefanovic, Vignal; O'Neil (Karadas, 75), Viafara (Taylor, 75), Hughes, Robert; LuaLua. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Todorov.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Booked: Manchester City Sinclair; Portsmouth Viafara, Hughes.
Man of the match: Cole.
Attendance: 41,022.Reuse content