For 75 minutes, it looked as though Manchester City was going to travel to White Hart Lane and steal three points from Tottenham, striking a major blow against Spurs' efforts to reach the Champions League next season.
But in the span of seven minutes, Tottenham exploded for three goals to earn a vital three points, defeating City, 3-1.
Tottenham looked to be the stronger side in the first five minutes, but City struck first.
Carlos Tevez shielded the ball from two defenders and found James Milner on the touch line with a brilliant pass. Milner's cross into the box was met by Samir Nasri, who sent the ball into the back of the net.
Just like that, City took a 1-0 lead, and Tottenham's Champions League aspirations potentially took a huge hit.
City seemed to take the wind out of White Hart Lane's sails after that, but Spurs slowly got back into the game. Clint Dempsey played Kyle Walker through on the right side of the box with a lovely pass in the 21st minute, but Joe Hart alertly shut down Walker's angle and blocked his attempt at goal.
Nasri nearly got a second goal in the 27th minute. Tevez played him into the box with a fantastic chip pass, and Nasri's first touch sent him clear of the defense. But with keeper Hugo Lloris closing and Nasri slightly off balance, his toe poke toward goal veered just wide.
While Tottenham continued to press forward, City continued to get the better chances. Tevez played a streaking Edin Dzeko between two defenders in the 39th minute, but the striker's near-post attempt was saved by Lloris.
In the 42nd minute, Tevez nearly doubled City's lead after a corner was headed his way, but his own headed effort lacked juice and Lloris easily scooped up the attempt. Minutes later, Dempsey pushed his own header over the bar off a corner kick, wasting one of Spurs' best scoring chances of the half.
In stoppage time, Tottenham had another excellent chance after Kyle Walker smashed a cross into the box, but a temporary scramble in the box ended with City clearing the danger.
Tottenham made tactical changes in the second half by switching to a 4-3-3 and continuing to press forward on the attack, but the final bit of class in the attacking third continued to elude Spurs.
But the Spurs got their equalizer in the 75th minute.
Walker feigned a shot and played the ball down the right side of the box to Gareth Bale, whose low cross found its way onto the back post and the foot of Dempsey. The American managed to remain onside and calmly smashed the sitter home.
Minutes later, Tottenham shockingly took the lead.
Lewis Hotby sent second-half substitute Jermain Defoe on a run down the left side of the pitch, who cut inside Vincent Kompany once he reached the box and ripped his shot past the outstretched arm of Hart.
And Spurs weren't done. After struggling to find the last bit of class in the final third for 75 minutes, the floodgates finally opened.
This time, it was Bale who was found streaking through the City defense by Tom Huddlestone. With only Hart to beat, Bale calmly chipped the ball over the City keeper and turned White Hart Lane into a raucous party.
With the win, Spurs remained in fifth place, trailing Chelsea only by goal differential (before Chelsea's game on Sunday against Liverpool). The win also put Spurs just two points behind Arsenal for third place with a game in hand.
For City, the loss ended any already slim hopes to win the Premier League title this season.
Roberto Mancini, Manchester City: F
While Andre Villas-Boas pulled all the right strings in the second half, making the right tactical adjustments and bringing in substitutes who changed the game, Mancini did very little to bring City back into the game after Defoe gave Tottenham the lead.
What was Mancini's major change late in the game? He put defender Joleon Lescott into the game to play up top at striker...with Sergio Aguero sitting on the bench.
That decision was, in a word, ridiculous.
Gareth Bale, Tottenham: A
For 75 minutes, Bale was mostly ineffective in his return. For the final 15 minutes, he was the hero once again. He set up Dempsey's equalizer and scored Tottenham's third goal, which put the game away. As his been the case all season long, Bale came up clutch when it mattered most.
Carlos Tevez, Manchester City: A-
He was the first half's best player, setting up the game's first goal and consistently threatening the Tottenham back line. Unfortunately, his City teammates couldn't match his excellent play in the second half as the game slipped away.
Jermain Defoe, Tottenham: A
Defoe was brought on in the second half for one reason—to score a goal. He not only achieved that, but he did so in style, easily cutting in past Kompany and tallying the game-winning strike. Defoe is far from the perfect striker, but when the ball is on his foot and he has space in or around the box, few players in the Premier League are more dangerous.
Yaya Toure, Manchester City: C
For the second straight game, Toure didn't play very well. While Tottenham found little success doing much up the center of the pitch in the first half, Toure wasn't his usual link between defense and offense, and his driving runs up the pitch were noticeably absent in the second half. Toure was mostly a non-factor, and for a player of his stature and ability, that's unacceptable.
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