Manchester City finally gave up their unbeaten Premier League run on Sunday and with Manchester United beating Stoke at a rain-drenched Old Trafford on Monday, the title race remains just that, for now at least.
Had the results been reversed, Pep Guardiola’s side would be an all but unassailable 18 points clear. Bookies would likely be paying out and the Premier League as a contest would be over.
Instead, with Liverpool securing a 4-3 victory over the champions-elect and with United putting Stoke to the sword, the gap at the top is a ‘mere’ 12 points.
Though still a mountain to overcome, that fading glimmer of hope has become a little brighter once more. Thanks to United’s fiercest rivals, there is still life left in the season.
All United must do is keep winning. As for City, the strange thing about losing is it can easily become a habit. Having managed to maintain their unbeaten run for more than half the season, people began to wonder could they match Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ of 2004.
That, of course, was the famous title-winning season that saw Arsene Wenger oversee an unbeaten league season. Following Liverpool’s victory on Sunday, that record remains solely in the possession of the London club for another season.
City will host Newcastle on Saturday before another pair of home ties with West Brom and Leicester sandwich a trip to Burnley. On paper, there are 12 points that should keep the Citizens on track for the title but should their newly found fallibility become an added incentive for their opponents, further points could be clawed back by United and the other title chasers.
Anything other than a perfect record ahead of the crunch ties with Arsenal and Chelsea next month and there could be life in this Premier League title race yet.
As for their cross-town rivals at Old Trafford, clashes with Burnley, Tottenham, Newcastle, Huddersfield and Chelsea must all be flawlessly negotiated over the next month or Jose Mourinho and his expensive charges can kiss goodbye to any title aspirations and instead, worry about Liverpool and Chelsea overtaking them in the table.
It is a long way back for those desperate to catch up with the runaway leaders but it is not without precedence.
Newcastle fans will remember all-too painfully the 1996/97 season when they threw away a 12-point lead, only to see Manchester United pip them to the title.
United fans will be hoping Mourinho can repeat Sir Alex Ferguson’s heroics from two decades ago and if it were to come to pass, it will all have started when their greatest rivals finally beat the league leaders.
Now that is a special kind of football irony.