Edin Dzeko's double helped take Manchester City to the brink of clinching their second Barclays Premier League title in three years as they overcame Aston Villa 4-0 on Wednesday.
After Liverpool's capitulation in the 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace on Monday, Manuel Pellegrini's men began their match in hand knowing that victory would move them two points clear at the top of the table heading into the final weekend of the season.
And they did not waste their opportunity, producing a second-half goal blitz that leaves them sitting pretty on top of the table with a two point advantage and comfortably better goal difference than their closest rivals from Merseyside.
Despite the emphatic scoreline, City were made to work hard in patches against a Villa side who held relegation fears for much of the campaign.
The opening goal only arrived midway through the second half as Dzeko finished off a well-worked team move.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina international striker added a second in the 72nd minute with his 16th Barclays Premier League goal of the season before City moved through the gears late on. Stevan Jovetic came off the bench with half an hour to go and made his impact when he passed the ball into the corner for the third, before Yaya Toure, so often the talisman this season, added his own stamp to the scoreline with a fourth in injury time.
Barring a huge swing in goal difference, City now just need a point at home against West Ham United to secure the Barclays Premier League title.
City unsurprisingly made the most of the early running, left-back Aleksandar Kolarov, in the side in place of Gael Clichy, forcing Brad Guzan into a near-post save after just five minutes.
Midfielder Toure was then denied by brilliant close-range stop from Guzan seven minutes later before David Silva, starting instead of the injured Sergio Aguero, narrowly missed connecting with a dangerous left-wing cross from Kolarov.
The hosts dominated possession throughout the first half, although Villa were dangerous on the break and could have taken the lead had Andreas Weimann supplied a better finish after racing clear on the counter-attack.
But the best chance of the opening period came in first-half injury time as Samir Nasri turned a James Milner cross wide at the near post from close range.
City's onslaught continued in the second half, Guzan called into action twice in the early stages after the restart. First, the American kept out Vincent Kompany's acrobatic overhead kick, and then produced an excellent save to prevent Kolarov's curling free-kick from finding the top corner.
However, Guzan was finally beaten in the 64th minute as Dzeko connected with Pablo Zabaleta's low ball into the box after Silva had fed the Argentinian with a superb pass down the right channel.
Pellegrini's side continued to flood forward in search of the second goal, and it duly arrived eight minutes later as Dzeko tapped in his second on the rebound after Guzan had saved from Nasri.
Weimann went close to setting up a tense finale with a header that cannoned off the underside of the crossbar late on, but City were out of sight soon after.
They added a third when substitute Jovetic converted from a pull back by Toure a minute from time. The Ivory Coast international then added further gloss to the scoreline himself by surging clear from inside his own half and powering beyond a helpless Guzan to give City sight of the title.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "The team was not only very patient, we played very well.
"We pressed well, had possession of the ball. We tried to move the ball as fast as we can and created two or three chances.
"I was absolutely sure if we continued to play the same way we would find the space to score a goal.
"Now we can talk about the title. We must win the last game against West Ham."
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "I thought we did fantastic. I am really proud of the team and the nerves were starting to set in. I didn't think it was easy for them, I couldn't be prouder of my own team.
"They are in the driving seat but you never know on the last day of the season."
|11 May 2014||v West Ham (H)|
|30 Nov 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|03 Dec 2014||v Sunderland (A)|
|06 Dec 2014||v Man City (H)|
|13 Dec 2014||v Leicester (A)|
|20 Dec 2014||v Man City (H)|