Harry Kane’s virtuoso display at the Etihad Stadium and its effect on the title race might have grabbed the headlines but this was also a hugely significant weekend in the Premier League relegation battle.
Watford and Burnley both won for the first time in three months to reignite their chances of climbing out of the bottom three – and leave Norwich City looking increasingly doomed at the foot of the table.
Meanwhile, directly above the relegation zone five of six teams lost, opening the trap door to the likes of freefalling Brentford as well as Leeds United, Everton and Crystal Palace.
Roy Hodgson greeted his first win since taking over as Watford manager last month, a 1-0 at Villa, with characteristic sobriety.
“The danger now is that we think we’ve cracked it and that what we needed to do between now and the end of the season has been done,” he said. “There’s such a long way to go.”
But while Watford may still be four points from safety, this was a watershed moment.
If anyone was going to turn around the Hornets, it was the man who steered Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace to safety. If not quite the turning of a corner, this was the first sign of life from a team that had lost 11 of their preceding 14 Premier League games.
Burnley also moved above Norwich with a first win since October and only their second in the top flight all season.
The addition of striker Wout Weghorst in January and the return of Maxwel Cornet has reinvigorated a stale attack, which burst into life in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat of Brighton.
It had perhaps been coming, though. The Clarets stemmed the bleeding of the early part of the campaign with a stream of draws, including against Manchester United and Arsenal.
Norwich still have hope, but their brief revival has been checked by successive defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool. It looks a long way back for a team with a -39 goal difference who have played more games than the teams above them.
Newcastle, in 17th, picked up a valuable point at West Ham United. With 12 points from their last six games, they have momentum. They, Watford and Burnley suddenly have the clubs in front of them glancing backwards.
If 16th-placed Everton thought Frank Lampard’s appointment would instantly reverse their slide then defeats to Newcastle and Southampton have checked that notion. They are only goal difference above Newcastle, albeit with a game in hand.
Leeds are just one point better off following their 4-2 reverse at home to Manchester United on Sunday – their sixth loss in the last nine Premier League fixtures – and have not kept a clean sheet since November.
Brentford, meanwhile, look increasingly precarious despite lying four places above the relegation zone. The Bees have just one point from their last seven matches and, crucially, have played two or three games more than their nearest rivals.
Palace have impressed under Patrick Vieira but have consistently failed to get the results their performances have deserved – Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea being a case in point. With 25 points from 26 games, they remain exposed.
“I don’t think things are pretty close at the bottom,” Hodgson insisted on Saturday. “The three teams down there are getting divorced from the teams above us.” That may have been true before a weekend that blew matters at either end wide open, but not any more.