The persistence of Chelsea was outdone only by the patience of the crowd. This was one of those occasions when expensive sides seem intent on producing shoddy football. The victors can be faulted only slightly. Even when they were caught up in the dreariness, Chelsea still had a desire to attack and deserved the late goals. Manchester City did not change their conservative stance until it was too late. The injured Carlos Tevez was badly missed but a club with City's funds is supposed to have redoubtable alternatives.
In a sense they do. Edin Dzeko cost £27m when bought from Wolfsburg in January but is yet to score in the League. It might be of help to him and any other attacker if there was more freedom and attacking intent from City. It is Chelsea who have at least the potential to dominate. Fernando Torres is still to score since the £50m move from Liverpool but there was enough flair around him to deter the crowd from brooding about his work.
The scorer of the opening goal, for instance, must reinforce the belief that Chelsea can be rejuvenated so that they stay to the fore even during a time of partial reconstruction. David Luiz is an inspired recruit. He cost some £21m from Benfica and the purchasers are right to think they have pulled off a coup even at that substantial price.
The Brazilian looks capable of everything, whether it is trenchant defending, skilful bursts into midfield or, in this case, the scoring of an opening goal. With 79 minutes gone he headed home a free-kick delivered by the substitute Didier Drogba. It will not come easy for the Ivorian to accept that, at 32, he must spend more time on the bench but it may be that he can be an asset even if there is limited time at his disposal. Drogba, of course, might feel he can displace Torres, although there is no indication that the manager, Carlo Ancelotti, has lost even the merest trace of his faith in the striker.
The equanimity comes more readily when results are pleasing. Chelsea may be revitalising themselves and, as if David Luiz's impact did not suffice, the value of Ramires is gradually being disclosed. He has seemed diligent, with a bad habit of collecting yellow cards that gives him seven following the caution here, but there was a dazzling glimpse of other attributes in stoppage time. The midfielder beat both Joleon Lescott and Aleksandr Kolarov before putting a stylish shot past the goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Beyond the outcome itself the atmosphere around Chelsea was bright. Irrespective of who identifies and signs players, recruitment is going well at present. Ancelotti, in any case, looks like a person who had never supposed he would wield absolute power. After all, he used to work for Silvio Berlusconi's Milan. At City, on the other hand, the issue of squad-building is liable to be a topic of recrimination.
The quality of the displays is far from a fair reflection of the sums committed to the project. After the epic fees it is disconcerting to watch what again appeared to be a run-of-the-mill team. Roberto Mancini is probably determined to keep vanity at bay but there is a fear that he has gone too far with this puritanism. City, for instance, mustered one goal in two matches as Dynamo Kyiv eliminated them from the Europa League.
Dashing football is not necessarily a luxury or proof of naivety. City, with their conservative manner, have scored markedly fewer Premier League goals than any of the other sides in the top four. Yaya Touré is an impressive all-round footballer but one has to wonder if City meant to buy a gifted holding player and turn him into an attacking midfielder. At Stamford Bridge the role seemed not to suit the Ivorian and it may be that any impact has come against poorer opponents. Touré was replaced before the end.
Elsewhere it was a conundrum that someone with the ability of David Silva was never a source of deep anxiety for Chelsea. A balance has to be struck but City's owners must have had in mind spectacle and entertainment that would see their team admired, even if a little resentment of their affluence lingered. Although the very idea makes no sense, Mancini looked hell-bent on putting together a diligent line-up that are hard to overcome.
That is a starting point but the tolerance of the owners will be unusual indeed if they do not begin to wonder whether there might be another manager who can go about his business with more dash and personality. In the light of the situation overall it was to be anticipated that José Mourinho would be tipped as a prospective manager of City.
He already has a job, of course, at a club of some standing and, if Real Madrid should part with him, Mourinho is also pictured as a successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Even so, Mancini may have to introduce panache if he is not to find himself expendable.