So the title race is back on, as long as you don't pay too much attention to Roberto Mancini's attempt to play down expectations at Manchester City.
But what happens if City (and it is still unlikely) can't upset the odds as they look to overturn what is now a five-point lead for Manchester United at the summit?
Mancini's future will come under scrutiny, but the decision on whether he stays in the hotseat must not be based on this season.
City should only make the call on what they believe the Italian can achieve in the next couple of campaigns - Premier League title success and a big impact in the Champions League have to be the targets - and nothing else.
Mancini certainly should not be sacked for a failure to bring the Premier League trophy to the Etihad Stadium this term.
There is no doubt that the second half of the season hasn't been good enough, but sacking a manager without looking to the future is the very silly way to replicate the revolving-door policy that has served Chelsea so badly.
City should only dispense with Mancini's services if they know NOW that there is someone better to come in - Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho jumping out to everyone as the two top names.
If that isn't the case, then Mancini should be backed wholeheartedly and allowed to build on the progress that has been clearly made during his tenure or else a summer of unwelcome speculation is very likely.
So - presuming neither of the El Clasico chiefs can be quickly tempted to the Etihad - what can City do to go that one step further this time next year?
Joe Hart and the first-choice defence of Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Vincent Kompany and Gael Clichy must be left well alone but much better competition is needed.
Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey would be a good choice to cover for Joe Hart between the sticks, with Costel Pantilimon already signed up for the long-term.
Defenders Stefan Savic and Kolo Toure have proved themselves to be woefully short of the standard needed at the top and Aleksandar Kolarov, despite a wicked shot, hasn't provided value for money.
Pablo Zabaleta at full-back is a solid Citizen, but extra arsenal at centre-half is a must.
The excellent Javi Martinez of Athletic Bilbao fits the bill given his ability to play at the back and in the centre of midfield, an area where Gareth Barry and Nigel De Jong don't exude too much long-term promise.
If a player with Premier League experience like Martin Skrtel or Johnny Heitinga could be acquired as well, then there really would be some extra security at the Etihad.
The desirability of Martinez illustrates the problems in central midfield for City and the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Bastian Schweinsteiger should also feature pretty prominently on Mancini's wanted list.
Samir Nasri is rapidly improving and is part of a roster that adds plenty of talent behind the strikers with David Silva and the improving James Milner and Adam Johnson all capable of further improvement.
It is right at the top of the field where things get a little more interesting.
Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez make plenty of headlines but so do house prices and the pasty tax, so that definitely isn't a good thing if you are looking to win trophies.
Tevez, despite returning to the scoresheet in the 4-0 win over West Brom, should be sent on his way as soon as possible with his return to action not doing any harm in attracting potential suitors.
The former West Ham man will be fondly remembered for being the key player at the start of the City revolution but the past is the past and the future has to be the only consideration.
Balotelli provides a different problem given there can be no doubt that he should provide even more quality for the Blues in the next few years.
That is if his moments of madness can be curbed.
His display at Arsenal was reckless and plenty has already been said about the FA's surprising failure to act after that horrible studs-up challenge on Alex Song.
But he does bring something unique to the table for City and at the age of 21 years old, he will get better.
Mancini seems to have the best chance of anybody of getting the temperamental talent under control but Balotelli's ability to make the news for the wrong reasons - this doesn't count his spending spree at John Lewis - needs to be taken under control.
We all appreciate that is easier said than done but City have to find a way to get the Italian consistently at the top of his game.
That leaves the class of Sergio Aguero and the more indifferent Edin Dzeko, who has been at best solid during his time in England, as City's other two frontline forwards at the moment.
John Guidetti has been ripping it up at Feyenoord during his loan spell from City and the young Swede must be given a chance to force his way into the first-team picture after such an impressive campaign.
That leaves City needing one top-drawer striker - presuming they can finally get Tevez out of the door, and possibly Dzeko - and the best bet on the continent to fill that role is Radamel Falcao at Atletico Madrid.
The Colombian has starred at the Vicente Calderon this term and plenty of European football's big hitters have taken note so Mancini will have to pounce with force.
Will these few acquisitions make the difference for City next season?
Yes. City are right on United's coattails and not much more is needed for the noisy neighbours to finally leave the volume on full blast.
If City don't already have Guardiola or Mourinho lined up, then Mancini must be given the chance to continue building his legacy or a period of instability could derail the club's ascent up the football mountain.
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