Manchester City’s centre-backs have been the bedrock for their extraordinary winning streak and made a decisive impact at the opposite end of the pitch as a 2-1 home success over West Ham made it 20 victories in a row.
Ruben Dias and John Stones have both been sensations for Pep Guardiola’s side in their separate ways this season and showed the attackers how it is done at the Etihad Stadium.
Summer signing Dias has brought a leadership quality to pull together a defence that had underwhelmed last season and has helped to turn City into the meanest defence in the Premier League.
And his first goal for the club since his summer switch from Benfica gave City a lead in a game when they were surprisingly short of inspiration.
After a Michael Antonio equaliser, it was central defensive partner Stones who swept in a decisive second for City, steering in Riyad Mahrez’s low cross with a smart finish to claim the three points.
No Premier League defender has scored more goals in all competitions this season than Stones to underline the resurgence of a career that looked to be heading in the wrong direction last season when he couldn’t get in Guardiola’s side.
"We try and chip in and everyone’s out there working hard," Stones told the club website. "Sometimes it doesn’t come off for the striker but today me and Ruben chipped in.
"That’s part of us being such a good team, and such a collective in big games.
"Everyone chips in or sometimes the person you don’t expect steps up and today it was me and Ruben. I’m glad to get the three points and keep the run going."
Defensively, they have been superb all season and Antonio’s 43rd minute equaliser was the first goal City had conceded in open play from an opposing Premier League player at the Etihad Stadium since Leicester’s James Maddison, 12 games ago in September.
Antonio could have scored earlier had an effort not flicked off the foot of the post as David Moyes’ Champions League-chasing side caused City all sorts of problems.
Guardiola made it clear that his players cannot use the hectic schedule as an excuse after a quick turnaround from their Champions League victory over Borussia Monchengladbach but City were as lethargic as they have been at any time during their current winning run.
The City boss tried to keep it as fresh as possible by making seven changes but his side were missing some of their usual quality.
With Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden left on the bench, the usual urgency and high pressing was missing.
A rejuvenated Jesse Lingard was a constant menace as he tried to break past Fernandinho, while rookie winger Ferran Torres was caught out by overlapping full-back Vladimir Coufal on a number of occasions.
Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne started together for the first time in more than a year after injuries and both were understandably off their best.
Aguero's season has been heavily disrupted by illness and injury, with his last start coming against the same opposition at the London Stadium in October.
Without regular football since a serious knee surgery in June, it was understandable that he was a touch rusty, particularly against a well-organised West Ham pushing for the top four.
The Argentinian was busy offering himself as an outlet ball but gave the ball away shortly before half-time which led to West Ham's equaliser.
De Bruyne was also making just his second appearance in a month and there was an unusually high count of poor touches and lax passing.
But he made amends - as he so often does - with a brilliant cross for the opening goal. Delivered with his left foot, De Bruyne's delicious, dipping ball picked out Dias, who seemingly just had to make contact to claim his first goal.
Stones and Dias showed their value in the dying minutes when they stood strong as the Hammers chased an equaliser.
At full-time, they punched the air and hugged in relief. Their contribution to City’s remarkable season cannot be understated.