Like a distance runner lapped before the bell, Manchester City will plod on, but their defence of the Premier League title finally collapsed when they lost to a villains-to-heroes Everton team who were reduced to 10 men after 61 minutes by the dismissal of Steven Pienaar.
City should have had a penalty five minutes from the end, when Marouane Fellaini blocked a Carlos Tevez shot with an arm, but Everton, who were booed off last week, were good value for the win gained by handsome goals in each half by Leon Osman and substitute Nikica Jelavic.
Roberto Mancini, who disappeared down the players' tunnel before the final whistle, declined to speak to the media after the match, leaving it to his assistant, David Platt, to explain that the City manager was "angry", adding: "He doesn't want to say anything that would get him in trouble." Why the temper? "We were outworked," Platt said. "And we should have had a penalty. Perhaps our performance didn't deserve one, but that's by the by."
David Moyes, celebrating his 11th anniversary as Everton manager, made two changes after that abject elimination from the FA Cup last week, and his team's stirring performance spoke volumes for his powers of motivation, which were called into question after the shock 3-0 drubbing by Wigan. He dropped his captain, Phil Neville, and Jelavic in favour of Darron Gibson and Victor Anichebe and would probably have dispensed with two or three more but for the unavailability of Tim Howard, Tony Hibbert and Phil Jagielka – all injured.
For the same reason, City were without Vincent Kompany and Sergio Agüero, plus Yaya Touré, who had fallen ill overnight. All three were clearly missed. City's briefly had reinforcements for their warm-up, though, before an intruder in full kit, thought to be a protester, was taken away by security staff and later arrested.
As if to show that he was in more combative mood this week, Fellaini was booked after only seven minutes, for fouling James Milner. Pienaar then clattered Gareth Barry and was cautioned. Everton were up for it this time all right.
Kevin Mirallas drove the ball high into the net after 12 minutes, but was denied by an offside flag. "It was a good goal", Moyes said. "He was onside." For City, however, it was only a temporary reprieve.
Everton took a deserved lead in the 32nd minute when Seamus Coleman, outstanding throughout, seemed to be shimmying his way nowhere but finally found Osman, who drove the ball just inside Joe Hart's right-hand post from 25 yards.
It could easily have been 2-0 before half-time, the human bulldozer that is Anichebe firing over the bar as he turned in front of goal and Mirallas having a header diverted over by Kolo Touré.
Osman might have had a second early in the second half, when he side-footed over from near the penalty spot. It then became a backs-to-the-wall battle for Everton when Pienaar, already booked, was shown the red card for a high, raking foul on Javi García. Moyes objected to Garcia's antics on the ground, but the referee's decision was the right one.
City threatened equality midway through the second half when Edin Dzeko's short, through pass set up Tevez for a close range shot which Jan Mucha did well to repel. The goalkeeper then made it a double save by keeping out Milner's follow up.
Sylvain Distin headed wastefully over from a corner when he could have made the points safe. Instead Mucha had to distinguish himself again, spreading himself in textbook fashion to keep out a close range shot from Pablo Zabaleta and Coleman denied Tevez from under the bar.
The visitors were denied their penalty when Fellaini handled a yard inside the area, only for the referee to award a free-kick on the edge of the D.
But any feeling that they might have deserved a draw was dispelled in added time when Jelavic, set up by Fellaini, made it 2-0 from 20 yards.
Moyes, asked about his team's Jekyll and Hyde transformation in the space of eight days, said: "I'd have been surprised and disappointed if I hadn't got that reaction after last week. If you watched us regularly you'd have to say what you saw today is what Everton do. I thought we played really well in the first half and in the second, when we were down to ten men, we did what we were doing when I first took over 11 years ago. We were resilient and hard to beat, putting bodies on the line to stop them scoring. We were rubbish last week, but that performance doesn't happen very often at Everton."