The game was locked at 3-3 deep into stoppage time. Jack Grealish raced clear, with a chance to win it for Manchester City and break Tottenham’s resolve once and for all.
Spurs had come from behind to level twice but, if Grealish could just keep his composure, there would surely be no response this time.
And then, inexplicably, the referee blew his whistle to stop the game. City were incensed.
Erling Haaland had been fouled moments before regaining his footing, swivelling and sending Grealish through. Referee Simon Hooper acknowledged the infringement and waved play on. Then, with City having made the very most of the advantage, he took it away.
“How can you explain it? You can’t explain it,” said former City defender Micah Richards on Sky Sports. “The problem I have is that we’ve had so many situations where play is allowed to go on.
“If you’re in doubt, just leave the play to go on and you can always bring it back. That’s why City will feel aggrieved.”
While fellow pundit Jamie Carragher said the referee “just panicked”, former Manchester United captain Roy Keane added: “It’s a poor call.
“For some reason, he’s blown the whistle – he’s definitely got that wrong. I think we can all see that.”
‘I will not do a Mikel Arteta comment’
Having reacted angrily at the time of the decision, City players and staff again surrounded the referee at full-time to argue their case, with Haaland particularly animated.
Manager Pep Guardiola had managed to regain his composure by the time he had to speak to the media.
When asked about the incident by Sky Sports, he said: “Next question. I will not do a Mikel Arteta comment.”
Having already decided he didn’t fancy following in the footsteps of the Arsenal boss in provoking a Football Association charge, he was a little more candid in his Match of the Day interview.
“Sometimes I lose my mind about the referees, but here no. Always people can make mistakes,” he said.
“It surprised me for the fact that he went to whistle when Erling went down, after he stood back up and made the pass so the referee made the gesture to play on. But then when the ball goes to Jack, then the whistle.”
When later asked specifically about Haaland’s response after the final whistle, Guardiola said “it’s normal” and “his reaction was the same for the other 10 players”.
“He’s a little bit disappointed,” he added. “Even the referee – if he played for Manchester City today he would be disappointed for that action, that’s for sure.
“But I would say we didn’t draw for that.”
While Haaland continued his protests after the game with a social media post appearing to question the decision, Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou was typically unperturbed, saying “it doesn’t affect me at all”.
The Australian added: “I don’t think that is the story of the game today, there are better storylines from that fantastic game of football than one refereeing decision.”