By Greg Stobart at Selhurst Park
It sometimes feels as though Yaya Toure finds the game so easy that he is almost dismissive of his opponents.
That was demonstrated in a rather literal fashion as the Ivorian’s wonderful goal here moved Manchester City to within three wins of the Premier League title.
Two minutes before half-time, Toure stormed in behind the Crystal Palace defence with frightening speed and power, dumped Damien Delaney on his backside and whipped a perfect left-footed finish into the top corner.
It was Toure’s 19th league goal of the campaign - a sensational record for a midfielder - and was the highlight of a jaw-dropping individual display that also included an assist fourth Edin Dzeko’s opener in the fourth minute.
The 30-year-old complained last week that as an African, he had only received “proper recognition” from supporters.
But this was a performance that highlighted why many consider Toure the finest midfielder in the world.
He strolled through the midfield, conducting the tempo of the game as City cruised to a comfortable victory to defy expectations against a Palace side who had just won five games in a row. Almost at will, he would crank through the gears and storm through Palace players to inject energy into attacks.
After two weeks out with a thigh injury, he was substituted in the 66th minute due to tired legs. By then he job was done.
“Toure being fit was a real big disappointment for me,” said Palace manager Tony Pulis. “He can do things that cause havoc. He was absolutely wonderful today.”
One of Toure’s most notable traits is that he is the man for the big occasion, City’s go-to guy when they find themselves in pressure situations.
He made sure that Liverpool received double punishment for their defeat against Chelsea and ensured a some glum faces on the Reds’ table at the PFA awards tonight, when Luis Suarez is expected to pick up the main prize.
In a season in which star striker Sergio Aguero has often been hampered by injuries, Toure has been the driving force behind City’s title charge.
The title is now back in City’s hands. If they win their final three matches - against Everton, Aston Villa and West Ham - they will almost certainly beat Liverpool to the title on goal difference.
They are now clear favourites to win the main prize. Everton will present the last, albeit significant, challenge and City have a poor recent record at Goodison Park, where they lost last year.
City will remember well their title victory in 2012 and the twists and turns in the final weeks of the season.
But that experience will hold them in good stead for the run-in. In one afternoon, the whole momentum of the title race has changed.
“We always trust that we can do it,” reflected Pellegrini. “In football, anything can happen. I told the players before the game not to think about the results between Chelsea and Liverpool. I think we did it in a very professional way.”
And he knows that with Yaya Toure in his side, City have the man who can power them to the title.