So for Manchester City, whose supporters sing of being without a dream of their own, the blue moon has finally turned to gold. The depth of the desire to end their 44-year ache could be seen when Mike Dean blew the final whistle and the fans poured over the barriers on to the Etihad Stadium pitch to display a joy suffused with relief and astonishment.

Whatever the performance of Roberto Mancini's team lacked in the sort of clarity and authority that might be expected of champions, it more than made good the promise of the 2011-12 Premier League season to provide drama all the way from beginning to end. "A crazy finish for a crazy season," Mancini said afterwards, and what happened in those five minutes of stoppage time, when the world first tilted on its axis and then turned upside down, was entirely consistent with a campaign that will always be remembered for its jolting fluctuations, for its 8-2s and its 6-1s and its 5-0s, as much as for its outcome.

Something had to happen in order to remove the sour taste left by the 54th-minute dismissal of Joey Barton, who may or may not have been provoked by Carlos Tevez but had no excuse for using his elbow on the Argentinian and even less for the cowardly kick administered to the back of the legs of Sergio Agüero after the red card had been shown. Barton's further confrontations with Vincent Kompany and Mario Balotelli as he finally made his way to the touchline should ensure that there will be no more attempts to treat him as some sort of misunderstood philosopher, and one can only pity the poor fellow charged with the job of ghost-writing his forthcoming autobiography.

The memory of that unpleasantness was dispelled by surely the most mind‑blowing conclusion to a football match since City's local rivals scored two goals in injury time in the Camp Nou to snatch the 1999 European Cup final from Bayern Munich's grasp. This time it was the turn of Sir Alex Ferguson and his men to lift the champagne to their lips, only to have it dashed away.

So Mancini has dethroned Ferguson, whose team won the title the preceding year. It will be interesting to see what effect the outcome of yesterday's traumatic climax has on the United manager, now in his eighth decade, who claimed this week that City's challenge had taken three years off him and renewed his appetite for the fray.

Other managers, most notably Arsène Wenger, José Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, have deprived the Scot of the title, only to find him coming back at them with even greater vigour. This time it may be slightly different, thanks to the shift in the formerly one‑sided balance of power between the two Manchester clubs, and to the resources available at City.

The effect of Uefa's financial fair play rules on future investment at the Etihad Stadium remains to be seen, but in the meantime we can only applaud Mancini's achievement, most notably the effect of his reaction over the final stages, when he coped brilliantly with watching United erode a lead held by City for a 28-week stretch and then build a daunting eight‑point lead of their own. Few who had watched Ferguson's skill at guiding and motivating his team through the closing stages of a tight season expected anything other than a 13th title for the Scot and a 20th for his club.

Instead Mancini, always holding a strong hand in terms of available players, showed the instincts of a bridge-player and gave a masterclass in the art of the bluff. The season was over, he told the world when City lost 1-0 at Arsenal on 12 April, just four weeks ago. If there had been a City project, it appeared to be in ruins, the Premier League campaign going the way of City's unimpressive participation in the Champions League. United, according to Mancini, were not just favourites for the title, but practically had their red ribbons attached to the trophy. The message to the players was somewhat different, but the public declaration had its effect. "I wanted to take the pressure off for three or four games," he said last night. "I was sure that we would have another chance."

All charm and bella figura in front of the cameras, Mancini is a hard nut who does exactly what it takes to achieve his ambitions. Not many managers, having declared that Tevez and Balotelli would never play for the club again, could have swallowed their pride so readily and restored the miscreants to the team sheet when the going got tough and City needed goalscorers. The return of Tevez in particular, and the establishment of a fertile partnership with his compatriot Agüero, was pivotal to the late burst of acceleration that brought City back on to level terms with a faltering United.

And so, most fittingly, the 95 minutes in which the title was won encompassed just about everything the Premier League has to offer: feverish anticipation, sudden anguish, immoderate exhilaration, profound disgust and ultimate catharsis, with each emotion cranked up to the max and beyond. It was not like that in Joe Mercer's day. But the good Joe would have applauded his successor yesterday. And as reality shows go, it wasn't bad, was it?