By Greg Stobart at the Etihad Stadium
The bus was parked, the rain was teeming down and Manchester City supporters may have feared the worst as the game entered the final half-an-hour. After all, for all their recent success, most of these fans were brought up where ‘Cityitus’ - a proclivity for choking when it matters - is still ingrained in the psyche.
Then they showed the personality and character of champions, of a team that has done this before. Their goal difference now means they need just one point against West Ham on the final day of the season to clinch a second title in three seasons.
“We’ll fight ‘til the end” were the words sung in the stands and written on the huge flag unveiled in the stands before kick-off.
Edin Dzeko has personified that spirit in recent weeks and while the scoreline ended 4-0 over Aston Villa on Monday, it was the Bosnian who transformed the game from an edgy draw into a convincing victory.
In the 64th minute, Dzeko was too quick on his toes for the Villa defenders as he darted across the six-yard box to reach Pablo Zabaleta’s cross and slide the ball first-time through Brad Guzan’s legs.
Eight minutes later, he put the results beyond doubt with a typical striker’s finish, finding himself in the right place to tap the ball in after Samir Nasri’s initial shot was saved by the goalkeeper.
Stevan Jovetic and Yaya Toure scored late on to seal and emphatic scoreline - but it was Dzeko who got City out of trouble.
The 28-year-old has scored nine goals in his last 10 games for City. Ever since his two goals in the Manchester derby win at Old Trafford in March, Dzeko has been the main man for Manuel Pellegrini’s side, especially with Sergio Aguero dogged by injury problems and Alvaro Negredo wilting.
At the start of the season, Dzeko cut a frustrated figure and was considering his future as Aguero and Negredo scored the goals and attracted the headlines.
But his form in the final stages of the campaign has been critical. Along with Yaya Toure, who took his tally to 20 league goals for the season on Wednesday, Dzeko has been pivotal in taking City to the brink of the title.
His passion and hunger to win have been evident in his goal celebrations in recent weeks.
City fans already knew he was a man for the big occasion. None could ever forget his late header to equalise against QPR on that dramatic final day in 2012.
After Chelsea’s win at Liverpool, it was Dzeko who took advantage with a perfectly directed header into the bottom corner to give City the lead against Crystal Palace.
Last week, when many expected City to slip up away at Everton, he scored twice to inspire a 3-2 victory at Goodison Park. The first goal was a quite brilliant header from 12 yards.
And it would be perfectly fitting if he is on the scoresheet again to take City over the line on Sunday.