City moved back to the top of the table after a long-range goal from Yaya Toure salvaged a point at the Britannia Stadium.
Never a happy hunting ground for the Blues, they had been staring down the barrel of a defeat after an amazing goal out of nothing from Peter Crouch had given Stoke the lead just before the hour.
The result means only goal difference separates City from United, but Blues fans will be hoping for a favour from Fulham when they visit Old Trafford on Monday.
Leading scorer Sergio Aguero joined Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott in the treatment room after picking up a foot injury in training and Edin Dzeko was promoted to the starting line-up as a result – the only change from the team that began against Chelsea in midweek.The Blues were looking to improve their Premier League away form having failed to score more than one goal on the road since the 3-2 win at QPR more than four months ago.
In fact, prior to this game, City had managed just four goals in eight league games on the road – a statistic that was at odds with the goal ratio enjoyed at the Etihad Stadium
...Stoke v City match report
In Tony Pulis’ side they were up against dogged opponents, still hungry for some payback for being beaten in 2011 FA Cup final in this, the 100th meeting between the two clubs.
With the hosts chasing their best top-flight winning sequence at home since 1984 – three successive wins – and unbeaten against City in all three previous Premier League clashes at the Britannia Stadium, this was always going to be a difficult fixture – but one that surely had to be won in order to keep the heat on Manchester United.
The opening stretch of the first half was high on effort, short on quality football, and shot through with a dash of controversy.
David Silva ended it sporting a head bandage like something from the Karate Kid films after being caught by the forearm of Dean Whitehead.
Howard Webb elected not to book the Stoke player, but he enraged City fans a few minutes later when Gareth Barry went in his book for a tamer challenge on Jerome.
The Blues were just about the better side, with Dzeko nodding a teasing Gael Clichy cross wide, but were grateful to Pablo Zabaleta when he hooked the ball clear a yard in front of the line with many home fans already celebrating a goal.
The second period meandered on in a similar fashion until the hosts took the lead with an astonishing goal on 59 minutes. Begovic’s clearance never touched the ground as it was nodded back to Peter Crouch, who teed the ball up to himself before volleying it across and beyond Hart from 25 yards.
The Blues were understandably stunned, and Adam Johnson replaced the still patched up out-of-sorts Silva almost immediately
...Stoke 1 City 1
The Wearsider injected some much-needed urgency, but the Stoke keeper was barely troubled for all City’s new threat, with Yaya Toure pumping a shot straight into his arms.
Gareth Barry made way for Carlos Tevez with 17 minutes to go as Roberto Mancini went all out attack with three up front, but it was his midfield general who dragged City back into the game with another long-range strike.
Clichy fed the Ivorian powerhouse, and his shot from around 35 yards out flew into the net to send the travelling fans wild. The shot had taken a big deflection off Shawcross’ head and Begovic’s right hand, but the power of Yaya’s effort ensured the net bulged.
There were few celebrations – City knew they needed the win but it did not come. Wilson Palacios curled a shot around Hart’s left post as the game entered stoppage time, while City’s goal-scorer drilled the ball over the bar but they left the Potteries with a point while the hosts celebrated like they had all three in the bag.
Who knows how important this point could be by the end of the season?