Manchester City took advantage of Liverpool’s slip to put the destiny of the English Premier League title back in their own hands as Yaya Toure inspired a 2-0 victory against Crystal Palace.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side had received a huge boost when leaders Liverpool crashed to a 2-0 home defeat against Chelsea earlier on Sunday.
That result put a spring in City’s step and before the first half was over at Selhurst Park they had seized the unexpected opportunity to regain control of the title race thanks to Edin Dzeko’s opener and a sublime effort from Ivory Coast midfielder Toure.
City remain third but they are now only three points adrift of Liverpool, crucially with a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference, and one behind second-placed Chelsea.
After a potentially defining weekend in the title race, Pellegrini’s men know that, whatever Liverpool and Chelsea do in their last two matches, City will be crowned champions for the second time in three years if they win their final three fixtures at Everton next Saturday and then at home against Aston Villa and West Ham – providing they maintain their goal difference advantage over Liverpool.
Two weeks after seeming to have squandered the title initiative with a loss at Liverpool and a draw against Sunderland, City were back in charge of their own fate.
And just as significantly, they had already received another fillip with Toure returning to the starting line-up after a groin injury.
It was Toure who was the catalyst for fired-up City to take the lead in the fourth minute.
Pellegrini’s team had hemmed Palace back onto the edge of their own penalty area when Toure, given too much time on the ball, curled a perfect cross towards Dzeko.
The Bosnian striker made a well-timed run to stay onside and split the Palace defence, allowing him just enough space to plant a downwards header past Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni.
For Liverpool their next opponents, Palace could still influence the title race, but despite their usual tenacious approach Tony Pulis’s side, who had won their previous five matches, found it impossible to knock City out of their stride.
City threatened a second goal when captain Vincent Kompany headed narrowly wide of the near post.
And they delivered the knockout blow in the 43rd minute as Toure produced a moment of brilliance to emphasise his importance to City’s cause.
He first displayed his strength to rob Yannick Bolasie deep inside City’s half before navigating the midfield with a quick-fire exchanges of passes with Dzeko and Nasri.
Nasri’s return ball offered Toure the chance to demonstrate his pace and he burst into the penalty area and cut inside Scott Dann to curl an exquisite strike into the top corner for his 23rd goal of the season.