Four goals from the former East German international striker, Uwe Rosler, gave his manager, Brian Horton, a good night's sleep for a change, and Howard Kendall a rude awakening on his return to Maine Road.
The former Atletico Bilbao manager may yet keep County in the First Division, but City's international brigade prevented his side from recording another embarrassing Cup victory over Premiership opposition.
Rosler's compatriot, Maurizio Gaudino, got the fifth of a nap hand that has temporarily diverted attention from whether this would be the night Horton got his cards. "The lager tastes sweeter tonight," the City manager said afterwards. "I've got another couple of games now. The players responded for me tonight. A vote of confidence from them is better than one from the chairman."
City's victory, however, was not quite as confident as the scoreline suggests. They went ahead after only eight minutes, Paul Walsh's little chip from midway inside the County half finding the tall Rosler in enough space to bustle into the penalty area and tuck his shot wide of Steve Cherry's right hand.
The advantage was shortlived. County's neat passing game was again demonstrating that they have ideas above their present station at the foot of the First Division, and a move involving seven players brought a swift equaliser. The full-back, Gary Mills, finding himself two yards out but at an acute angle, resisted the temptation to shoot and pulled the ball back for the unmarked Gary McSwegan to sidefoot in after 12 minutes.
It was their own indiscipline, however, that saw them fall behind again. Walsh was brought down on the edge of the box, and while the defenders were still arguing about the decision, Keith Curle took the free-kick. Nicky Summerbee's shot was charged downbut Rosler stuck the rebound into the top corner.
And two minutes before the interval Walsh again opened them up, his cross picking out Gaudino, who met it with a thumping header beyond Cherry. Rosler's final brace - Walsh and Peter Beagrie being the providers - bore out Kendall's comment that the real difference between the sides was the quality of their crossing.
Kendall is no stranger to having managerial chairs whipped out from under him, though the former City manager might have received a warmer welcome if he had been sacked from Maine Road, too, rather than having the distinction of having departed under hisown steam.
Kendall, however, was gracious in defeat. "City caused us more problems than we caused them. We have to deal with crosses and defend better than we did." Even late on, though, his side still had the spirit to expose City's defensive frailties, Rob Matthews running in to beat the exposed Andy Dibble.
The final irony for Horton is that awaiting him in the fourth round is Aston Villa, who earlier this season dispensed with one Ron Atkinson - the name most frequently mentioned should a manager's vacancy be advertised at the Moss Side job centre.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Dibble; I Brightwell, Curle, Kernaghan, D Brightwell; Flitcroft (Simpson, 60), Summerbee, Gaudino, Beagrie; Walsh, Rosler (Quinn, 85). Substitute not used: Burridge (gk).
Notts County (4-4-2): Cherry; Mills, Murphy, Johnson, Legg; Devlin, Butler, Turner, Matthews; White, McSwegan (Lund, 19). Substitutes not used: Sherlock, Reece (gk).
Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).Reuse content