City cruised into the last eight of the FA Cup sponsored by e.on after a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Aston Villa.
Goals from Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and David Silva mean the Blues will now face Reading a week on Sunday with dreams of a first semi-final in this a competition since 1981.
With the carrot of another home tie in the quarter-finals dangling for the winners, it was Roberto Mancini who appeared to have selected the stronger starting eleven.
David Silva and Micah Richards returned after both missing the weekend draw with Fulham, though Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko were two of the stellar names beginning the game on the bench.
Gerard Houllier elected to rest eight of the team that thrashed Blackburn at the weekend, perhaps giving an indication of where the FA Cup stands on his list of priorities this season.
After a somewhat lacklustre display against the Cottagers on Sunday, an expectant crowd were hoping to see a little more cut and thrust in the early stages – and they were on their feet within five minutes as the Blues made the perfect start.
Aleksandar Kolarov’s corners are beginning to regularly reap rewards and the Serbian’s whipped cross was glanced on by Patrick Vieira and into the chest of Ciaran Clark who merely deflected the ball into the path of Yaya Toure. The Ivorian made no mistake from four yards out, notching his sixth of the season.
Villa occasionally probed the Blues’ back four, but City never looked less than in control and on 25 minutes, the lead was doubled in stunning fashion..
Yaya Toure picked up the ball in the centre circle and with one glance, spotted Mario Balotelli’s intelligent run and lofted a sumptuous 40-yard through ball into the Italian’s path.
As Brad Friedel raced off his line the former Inter striker half-volleyed a shot into the roof of the net from 20 yards. It was simple, devastating football and also his tenth goal in a dozen starts and his fourth against Villa - Super Mario appears to enjoy playing Houllier's side!
Villa could offer little in the way of a response and Joe Hart’s goal was rarely threatened in a dominant first half display by the hosts.
There was more of the same after the break, too, with Silva pulling the strings majestically in the middle of the park and it was the Spaniard who sealed the game on 70 minutes with a classy third, striking the ball on the half-volley from the edge of the box and giving Friedel no chance.
That was effectively the end of the game a a contest and, encouragingly, there was no sign of fatigue as the Blues’ punishing schedule continues unabated.
It was also City’s second home win over the Midlands outfit in little over two months and sweet revenge for the 1-0 defeat suffered at Villa Park in January and proved Mancini’s men are indeed up for the cup.