The match was as memorable for its controversy as its conclusion. Manchester City, having surrendered a 2-0 lead, won 3-2 at the very close of stoppage time when Mario Balotelli converted a penalty after he had been brought down by the Tottenham Hotspur captain, Ledley King. It is highly debatable whether the Italian striker, a substitute, should have been on the pitch by then. Balotelli, already booked, had stamped on Scott Parker in the 84th minute.
As much partisanship as imagination is required by anyone aiming to persuade themselves that this was an accident. The referee, Howard Webb, could not have seen the episode clearly and there may still be disciplinary action, although that will be no solace for the Tottenham Hotspur manager, Harry Redknapp.
City were lucky in more respects than one. In the earlier part of stoppage time Gareth Bale went past Joleon Lescott on the left, but a stretching Jermain Defoe could only touch the Welshman's cross wide at the far post. As this match proceeded, the initial conservatism gave way not just to misconduct but also to excitement.
As minds clear, it may be noticed that City recovered more of the verve that made them so attractive in the earlier part of this season. Roberto Mancini's team also racked up three goals when beating Liverpool on this ground earlier in the month. Given that City's last league title came 44 years ago, the players, coaches and the manager are in unknown territory no matter what they may have achieved in other lands and other days.
It takes quite a psychological trick, too, for men to feel at ease when the prize is not just great, but there are also rivals around in Manchester United who are crammed with the Premier League knowhow that is in relatively small supply at City. Mancini himself seemed nervous when he referred a few weeks ago to his craving for a signing in the January transfer window.
There will be snorts of derision from managers of slender means but Mancini has had cause, from his perspective, to feel embattled. Apart from reflecting on absentees who are at the Africa Cup of Nations, City have had to do without the suspended Vincent Kompany. He, however, will be eligible for the next league game, at Everton on 31 January.
City are not yet in sight of their former expansiveness but there will have been pleasing indications for Mancini in their victory. Some will claim that the signs of progress from Samir Nasri were long overdue but it will be significant if the midfielder goes on making a worthwhile contribution. The club have many players in the squad but numbers alone do not ensure that the manager can spread the load.
David Silva influenced this result but much has depended on him already. All in all, someone such as Bale has not been obliged to dig so deep. The expectations of Tottenham have mounted only gradually and even then they have been followed by debates as to whether they can really be Premier League winners.
The psychological microclimate is different at City. It is bad enough that they departed the Champions League so soon and there will surely be no mercy for Mancini if the domestic title eludes him. At least Redknapp has none of those considerations to concern Spurs. People generally speak with gentle vagueness about the notion of the Premier League trophy fetching up at White Hart Lane. That lets Tottenham maintain a calm that is out of reach for Mancini.
Despite that there were periods here when City recovered much of the panache that made them so prolific earlier in this campaign, even if they were only to find that their opponents could respond. The hosts led after Silva set up Nasri in the 56th minute. Mancini's team consolidated when a corner by Nasri was glanced on by Edin Dzeko and knocked home by Lescott.
The visitors were assisted when they rallied as Stefan Savic, the 21-year-old with an alarming resemblance to a novice defender, misheaded a long ball from Younès Kaboul to Defoe, who snapped up the opportunity.
The leveller was spectacular, with Bale, from the right, curling an exquisite drive home from some 20 yards. A share of the spoils would have been appropriate, but it was City who prospered.
Entertainment was no simple matter. With so much at stake, the great efforts by motivated and talented players had often led to deadlock in the first half. Tottenham, with Parker screening the defence in a lineup that had Defoe as a lone striker, were marginally more conservative but it was initially the sort of struggle in which each side played on the other's nerves.
With King fit enough to make his first appearance since 22 December the visitors were unlikely to succumb quickly. Even so, City pushed forward in numbers and it became feasible to build moves in opposition territory. Brad Friedel, indeed, had a save to make when the City right-back Micah Richards hit an angled shot after half an hour.
It was the start of the match's evolution into a contentious and exciting affair. One side was to prevail but the grappling for the title by City, Tottenham and Manchester United has far to go. We can be glad of that.