Six goals, including a brace from that perennially restless birthday boy Yaya Toure, but it was a moment of -gravity-defying goalkeeping that decided this match yesterday (Sunday) and will live longest in the memory.
Manchester City were leading 3-2 and weathering a period of intense pressure when, in the 81st minute, Federico Fernandez headed what looked like a certain equaliser that would have kept Swansea City's -European hopes alive and left some doubt lingering over Manchester City's place in the Champions League next season. Joe Hart, though, simply delivered a save that was -extraordinary on three different levels.
There was the speed of his -reactions, the sheer athleticism of his acrobatic jump and, most impressive of all, there was the awareness to adjust his outstretched hand mid-air to guide the ball above the bar.
"It felt good," Hart said. "He headed it well but I've flown after it and needed to get a good connection to get it up and over."
It was among the very best saves in Premier League history and also a fitting way to seal a win that -guarantees Manchester City's place in the group phase of the Champions League. In stark contrast, Swansea's Lukasz Fabianski had made mistakes for both Toure goals that were to evoke unfortunate memories of the rather cruel 'Flappy-Handski' -nickname that followed him at -Arsenal. Swansea cannot now catch Southamp-ton in seventh for a -potential Europa League place but were justifiably still proud both of this performance and the certainty of their highest Premier League finish of eighth.
"Joe Hart's save was world class; unbelievable, incredible," Garry Monk, their manager, said. "Ninety nine times out of 100 it is a goal."
Manuel Pellegrini, the Manchester City manager, was noticeably more measured in his praise, saying that Hart had benefitted from being -pressurised for his place by Willy -Cabarello. He also stressed how Hart was continuing to learn when he was asked whether he was now one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
"I think that Joe is the number one in England," Pellegrini said. "He has improved a lot. The most important thing is that he has an open mind. I think he is starting to reach the peak of his career. Joe must improve and not think he knows everything at this moment. Every day he works hard. It was a beautiful save in a very -important moment."
It was also the highlight of a wonderfully entertaining and free-flowing if sometimes kamikaze match.
The tone was set in the attacking selection of Monk who, after his team were criticised by Arsene Wenger for their supposedly negative tactics in winning 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium, started with Bafetimbi Gomis in attack. "I wanted the players to send a message to the world; we can go toe to toe with anyone when we decide to," Monk said.
Swansea's confidence following five wins in their previous seven matches was quickly evident and, after a -precise Jonjo Shelvey through-ball, Gomis provided Hart's first test. -Jefferson Montero and Nathan Dyer were enjoying particular success on the flanks and, having cut inside and completely wrong-footed Eliaquim Mangala, Dyer forced a superb one-handed save by Hart.
Fabianski is tied with Hart on 13 clean sheets in the race for the -Premier League's 'Golden Glove' but it was to be a rare goalkeeping error that contributed to Manchester City taking the lead. David Silva had passed to Toure and, while his shot was delivered with venom and did just deflect off Ashley Williams, -Fabianksi should not have been beaten. The goal allowed City to play partly on the counter-attack and it was actually direct from a Swansea corner that they scored their second.
Frank Lampard's 40-yard volleyed cross-field clearance was a moment of pure class, with Sergio Aguero -racing forward and spotting James Milner, who had the vision and legs to run virtually the full length of the pitch to join the attack. He then showed considerable composure to collect Aguero's pass, dribble inside Neil Taylor and aiming his finish across Fabianski.
Swansea did not allow the scoreline to alter their tactics and were rewarded on the stroke of half-time when Gyfli Sigurdsson shot powerfully beyond Hart.
Shelvey prompted another good save from Hart before a further -misjudgment from Mangala. Gomis pounced, bringing the ball under control before finishing past Hart. It looked like Fabianski's earlier error would be forgotten, especially after saves from Silva and Jesus Navas, but he was then surprised at his near post by the power of Toure's shot.
Swansea still kept attacking but Hart's breathtaking save from Fernandez was the pivotal moment, with Wilfried Bony putting a further shine on City's win on his return to Swansea with a clinical finish in added time.