Some wins are so important, they feel almost season-defining. Manchester City's 2-0 win away at Hull, which was achieved after playing the majority of the match with 10 men, may well prove to be one such occasion. The relief at the end of this one was palpable.
Vincent Kompany saw red after just 10 minutes for pulling Nikica Jelavic back with the Hull striker in on goal; however, there was more than a hint of a foul on the Belgian seconds earlier.
It felt like a disastrous moment in City's season. Nine points behind leaders Chelsea with three games in hand, there's no room for slip-ups, yet City faced 80 minutes with a numerical disadvantage against a side who have shown flashes of brilliance at home this season.
It's a situation that would have seen many sides wilt, but there's real determination in this group of players to achieve. David Silva, who was absolutely outstanding all afternoon, with his guile and craft too much for Hull to handle, put City in front with a beautiful finish from outside the area.
City felt even more aggrieved when a reckless, studs-showing challenge from Ahmed Elmohamady on Silva only saw the Egyptian player booked. Lee Mason, who seemed off the pace all afternoon, must be looked at closely after this poor performance.
"City get all the decisions!". Yellow card for this potential leg breaker. pic.twitter.com/p7kdmGZ6Vl— City Watch (@City_Watch) March 15, 2014
Hull's George Boyd, who made a disgraceful attempt to win a penalty by diving at the feet of the onrushing Joe Hart, is likely to face action after appearing to spit in the City's goalkeeper's face during the game.
Key to City's afternoon was how comfortably they handled the Jelavic-Shane Long threat, thanks largely to heroic performances from Javi Garcia and Martin Demichelis, both of whom have faced a raft of criticism during their time at City.
Garcia started off as a holding midfielder in this match but was moved to centre-back after Kompany's sending off and was equally effective in both roles. After being characterised as ineffective and slow since his arrival in 2012, his turnaround this season has been remarkable, with his status now that of an important and versatile squad player.
And Demichelis, whose scapegoating by the media and his own fans has been nothing short of absurd, turned in arguably his best performance of the season in a week where he has been lambasted from all angles.
Whilst his recklessness in giving away penalties against Barcelona and Wigan were reprehensible blots on his copybook, the idea perpetrated by the masses that he is some kind of joke has become difficult for right-minded observers to accept.
His display today was excellent. His reading of the game, aerial ability and quality in possession were all on display, as he gave exactly the kind of performance you need when your captain and leader has been dismissed.
And after missing a sitter earlier in the match, Edin Dzeko added a second for City, with the pressure now firmly on Chelsea ahead of their match against Aston Villa later in the day.
Kompany's red card is expected to see him banned for just one match, meaning he will miss the Fulham game at the Etihad next weekend, a situation which would see him available for the games against Manchester United and Arsenal—two absolutely crucial matches for the club.
Massive win today and great team spirit to get 3 pts at Hull. Thanks again to the Man City fans for travelling and supporting the team.— Pablo Zabaleta (@pablo_zabaleta) March 15, 2014
After a difficult week that saw them exit two cup competitions, City have responded in the best possible way. If they do go on to win the title, this game may well be looked back on as a critical moment in their season.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!