On Saturday lunchtime, as the rain pelted down at White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur were top of the Premier League.
This was the first time they had reached this summit in the second half of the season since 1985, and the first time they had been there in March since 1964.
The problem was it was only to last for 14 precious minutes.
This was the time between Harry Kane giving Tottenham the lead in the second half, and Alexis Sanchez managing to drag Arsenal back in to the game with an equaliser.
There will be no league tables printed to remember those 14 minutes, and when the final whistle blew, Tottenham found themselves back where they had started: second.
For that brief time, Tottenham fans had dared to dream, and so left with only a point, an overwhelming sense of deflation lingered over White Hart Lane.
This was a missed opportunity. Hold on to the lead, and Tottenham would have gone top until Leicester City kicked off—and also all but killed off Arsenal’s own faltering title challenge.
However, this is not a time for regrets, but rather to remember the rare position Tottenham now find themselves in and the prize that still awaits them.
At the end of this north London derby, Tottenham still hold the edge over Arsenal in the title race—and with more than just mere statistics.
In the table they hold a three-point lead over them, which is effectively four points, as they have a vastly superior goal difference over them, 27 to 16.
But just as importantly something is stirring at White Hart Lane; there is an inherent belief in these Tottenham players that continues to push them and make things happen.
Meanwhile, Arsenal continue to be afflicted by a casualness and a complacency, and that gnawing fear that they are imploding at just the wrong time once again.
Of course, they did well to rescue a point with only 10 men, but it was just that, a point, and they continue to play beneath themselves overall.
Arsenal have both a starting XI and a squad that should be 10 points clear of Tottenham in the table, yet they find themselves staring up at them.
The difference in attitude in these two sides could be seen after 62 minutes when Per Mertesacker was again too casual and tried to usher the ball out of touch, rather than deal decisively with it, and was ambushed by Tottenham.
Dele Alli refused to give up, stole ahead of the German defender, and kept the ball in play with an innovative backheel.
Kane took control of the ball, but he wasn’t content to play safe; emboldened by the belief currently coursing through Tottenham, he decided to shoot from what appeared to be an impossible angle.
It wasn’t, of course, and he splendidly curled the ball past David Ospina to haul Tottenham up to the top of the table for those 14 minutes.
This wonderful goal was emblematic of a Tottenham side that continue to produce more than their team sheet suggests they can, but Mauricio Pochettino has created both a strategy and a spirit that could still lead them to the title.
This was a more important point for Tottenham as it kept the status quo, and retained their advantage over Arsenal—and still kept them in touch with Leicester.
It is Arsenal who must engineer the spectacular, but they couldn’t manage it.
Arsene Wenger and his side will cling to the hope their battling performance will give them momentum for the final nine games, but we have been here before.
Only three weeks ago, wasn’t their late winner against Leicester meant to create this momentum and help carry them to the title?
Instead, Arsenal haven’t won a game since, drawing in the FA Cup to an understrength Hull City, and losing three consecutive games to Barcelona, Manchester United and Swansea City, before gaining this point against Tottenham.
If Danny Welbeck’s late winner against Leicester and the delirious scenes of celebration it sparked at the Emirates Stadium could not rouse Arsenal, why should this point at White Hart Lane be any different?
In the next two months, Arsenal could be too riven with underperforming players to barge their way past Tottenham and Leicester, and their more immediate concern should be to retain their place in the top four.
On the morning of the north London derby, Kane told the Times: “Teams do not want to play us. We hear that a lot. They say it’s unbelievable the way we play, we press so hard.”
It is this approach that will continue to trouble teams, and help Tottenham win more points than Arsenal as they battle with Leicester for the title.
In contrast, with no wins in their last five games, opposition teams see Arsenal as more vulnerable and always capable of dropping points.
The next nine games will now determine if Tottenham can extend their stay at the top from those 14 minutes to the three months over the summer.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!