After six months in disgrace, Carlos Tevez returned a hero as he helped inspire a triumphant Manchester City comeback against Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.
With City trailing to Gary Cahill’s deflected opener, and their title hopes about to suffer a potentially fatal blow, Tevez was given 24 minutes to do something about the situation.
And the controversial South American answered the call.
First Tevez began the move that ended with Sergio Aguero equalising from the penalty spot.
Then, five minutes from time, he created the opening which allowed Samir Nasri to grab a precious three points.
It was City’s 20th Premier League home win on the trot, a new record. Far more importantly, it cut Manchester United’s lead at the top to a single point.
After a goalless first half, when the opener eventually came on the hour, it was something of a surprise.
And there was a degree of good fortune about it for the visitors as Cahill’s skewed shot would have been saved by Joe Hart had it not taken a massive deflection off Yaya Toure that left the City goalkeeper totally stranded.
It was all-square in the 78th minute when a harsh handball decision on Michael Essien enabled Aguero to step up and slot home past Petr Cech from the penalty spot.
Seven minutes later, the vital three points were sealed by the home side when Nasri cheekily nicked the ball over the advancing Cech to send the stadium into uproar.
City manager Roberto Mancini was pleased with Tevez’s cameo and paid tribute to his side’s determination to win the game.
“I’m happy, because he did well,” said Mancini. “Also he’s not in good form, I don’t think he’s fit 100 per cent, but that’s football.
“I think we deserved to win because we had three or four chances in the first 20 minutes.
“When they (Chelsea) scored I think we didn’t deserve to go behind. But we wanted, we desired to win this game.”
Mancini did admit, however, to feeling nervous when Chelsea took the lead.
“After their goal it was feeling like squeaky bum time,” he added.
Mancini claimed City’s title bid was now back on track following their defeat at Swansea.
“Yes, I think so,” he said. “It’s more than three points this game.”
City defender Micah Richards admitted the victory was a huge result in their battle with city rivals United for the title.
He said: “It’s a massive result for us. After we went 1-0 down heads could have dropped, but we kept on going and managed to get three points.”
Chelsea caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo felt the defeat was harsh on his side.
“It think it is (tough). We fought very hard and I think we deserved a point,” he said.
“The penalty was a bit harsh, but it was a handball for sure.”