A Bridge too far? Or a pathway to odds-on favouritism in the Barclays Premier League title race?
Those were the questions posed before trailblazing City’s latest capital adventure.
The answers were not wholly convincing either way.
The bookies will still have Roberto Mancini's fast-trapping Blues at the top of their lists to lead the field when the finishing line looms in May but Chelsea played well enough to suggest that they will also be a factor in the home straight.
Despite totally dominating the game for its first third and going a goal up, City succumbed in the last ten minutes having been reduced to ten men with the sending off of Gael Clichy.
The Italian strike repaid that faith within two minutes, timing his run behind Chelsea’s high back line to race onto Sergio Aguero's brilliantly timed pass. One quick look up and a drop of the shoulder later Balotelli was between Cech and Ivanovic and rolling the ball into the back of the net.
Cue Mario’s ‘Angel of the North’ celebration and the perfect start for the league leaders
...Chelsea 2, City 1
As ever much of Manchester’s attacking spark revolved around the quick feet and speedy brain of David Silva coupled with Aguero’s ability to work space across the opposition back line.
Both were prominent in an opening fifteen minutes during which City looked unplayable at times. The Argentine's tenacity and strength earned a shooting chance that fizzed a yard wide and then Silva ought to have a penalty when Bosingwa took him down at the knee.
Mark Clattenburg waved play on much to the animated disbelief of Mancini and company in the dugout.
Still City were in charge pushing Chelsea into abandoning their original defensive line for the trenches nearer their own goal. It stemmed the flow of chances but not the general tone of the match.
The visitors’ ball retention was exemplary on a slippery pitch that suited their short passing and possession game
...Chelsea 2, City 1
Chelsea found the slow, slow, quick, quick, slow tempo hard to deal with until the 34th minute when they equalised with their first real opening of the night.
Ex-City man Sturridge beat Clichy at speed on the right wing and crossed for Meireles to volley home unmarked from six yards. That goal meant eight matches in succession in the Premier League without a clean sheet – the one flip side of the amazing start to the season.
All of a sudden Chelsea, who had won five of their last six home matches against the Manchester blues, had a point in their grasp as well as one to prove - one that had been stoked up in the preliminaries by boss Andre Villas-Boas who opined that Mancini and co get preferential treatment from the media. Has he read some of City’s cuttings?
Indeed, the home side buoyed by their leveller took the game by the scruff of the neck at the start of the second period and their domination was aided by the rash sending off of Clichy for two yellow cards within 12 minutes. He will now miss the visit of former club Arsenal.
It was the third sending off for the Blues in the last six league matches and it tipped the balance in the home side’s favour. Aguero was hauled off and replaced by Kolo Toure and it was back to the wall for the last half hour or so with Cech not having a shot to save.
On came Frank Lampard, so often the curse of City with five goals in his last nine outings against the Blues, and not long after arrived Nigel de Jong for his first taste of Premier League action this season away from the Etihad Stadium.
It was a case of ‘we hold what we have’ from Mancini and he would have been delighted until nine minutes from time when Joleon Lescott’s arm got in the way of Sturridge’s shot and Lampard converted the penalty to end a glorious unbeaten run.