Stephen Tudor puts forward the Premier League's most seismic moment as the greatest game he has ever watched. Drink it in.
"A goal to the good, City were just 45 minutes away from exorcising two generation’s worth of pain and better yet doing so by depriving a bete noire who had long cast them in shade."
Manchester City 3-2 QPR
Premier League 2011-12
This match was not supposed to be one of the most dramatic and incredible games of all time. For all that rode on the fixture it was widely anticipated that the home side would comfortably prevail, thus securing their first league title for 44 years and very possibly relegate the Hoops into the bargain. It was to be a historic day certainly but exclusively that.
It was assumed that the heightened tension and captivating melodrama had all been dispensed with a fortnight earlier when City beat their hated rivals Manchester United at the Etihad courtesy of a thumping Vincent Kompany header.
It was a priceless derby victory that got their noses in front in this fiercely contested title race with just two to play; level on points but putting them top via a superior goal difference. Then came a challenging trip to Newcastle that was successfully navigated and now came a side who were admittedly scrapping for their very lives but who would surely succumb to destiny.
Now it was time for City's coronation
This narrative only strengthened when Pablo Zabaleta's scuffed volley put the Blues in front late in the first half. It was a timely strike that calmed the nerves, especially as Manchester United were already ahead in their season's finale at Sunderland. For the Reds to claim a thirteenth Premier League crown they needed to win and hope for a minor miracle to occur due south; that or pull off a tremendous miracle by outscoring their newly minted 'noisy neighbours' by an absolute hatful. At the Stadium of Light it remained 1-0 for the duration so we turn our full attention back to east Manchester.
A goal to the good, City were just 45 minutes away from exorcising two generation's worth of pain and better yet doing so by depriving a bete noire who had long cast them in shade. All that was required was to maintain or extend a lead against a poor QPR side who trudged off at the break already looking beaten. What could possibly go wrong?
What went wrong was an unwelcome return of what former boss Joe Royle once referred to as 'Cityitis'; a condition that seemed to be embedded in the club's DNA of which the main symptoms were a propensity to shoot yourself in the foot and to always, without fail somehow manage to snatch farce from the jaws of hope.
It was a malady that had taken them all the way down to the third tier at the turn of the new century and brought them ten different managers inside a tumultuous decade. It resulted in them becoming a national punchline until they later won the national lottery.
Their relapse took the form of a mistimed header by Joleon Lescott that sent Djibril Cisse scurrying through to equalize and from the second the ball fizzed past Joe Hart, a familiar neurosis took hold of the Etihad faithful. It was a horrible reversion to type.
Soon after the visitors gained a further advantage by having a man sent off, and if this sounds incongruous let's first stay with the incident because it was a doozy. Joey Barton - who else? - flung a stray elbow into Carlos Tevez's face and on seeing red proceeded to spectacularly lose the plot, kneeing Aguero in the thigh before launching a head-butt Vincent Kompany's way.
It was the kind of extreme implosion that typically has commentators wringing their hands and insisting that nobody wants to see that; whereas in reality, we all love to see it.
Being a player down conversely helped QPR because in their opponent's desperation to score, and with extra space to exploit, City poured relentlessly forward, creating countless chances all repelled by Paddy Kenny who was having a blinder. In doing so however City forgot their obligation to defend and a very rare foray forward by Rangers in the 65th minute found Jamie Mackie with an acre to himself, 1-2.
The crowd fell numb, pained and tortured while on the touchline Roberto Mancini was making Barton look like a zen master. For the remainder of normal time, as yet more opportunities came and went, came and went, the volatile Italian hurled abuse at his players. He threw his toys from his pram then set fire to the pram. Like City's dream he unraveled before our very eyes.
Blues can recall Edin Dzeko's injury-time header with far greater clarity than they can Sergio Aguero's seismic strike.
The latter exploded their minds, shattered their senses into a million different pieces, and ignited their tonsils but Dzeko's late, late equaliser prompted only a cold, rational anger at the cruel fates. The goal mocked them; taking them to within touching distance of a fantastical fantasia that was now forever gone.
Only it wasn't and we know that now. Indeed, we know every breath and heartbeat of the goal, from its build up to execution and that's because this thrilling, topsy-turvy and incredible game boasted the most memorable climax imaginable. For City it was the jump-cut in 2001: A Space Odyssey when a bone is thrown into the air and turns into an orbiting satellite. For the rest of us it was a nirvana of exhilarating disbelief.
"I swear you'll never see anything like this ever again". That's what Martin Tyler said, as the goal-scorer was mobbed and sheer bedlam ensued. And we won't.