City trail 2-1 at the halfway stage of the Capital One Cup semi-final after narrowly losing the first leg at Goodison Park.
The Blues, far from their sparkling best, conceded goals at crucial periods but a strike from Jesus Navas means City will still fancy their chances of making the final at the end of February.
Before that, plenty of hard work ahead…
First legs are always something of a conundrum – keep things tight and contain or go for broke and establish an advantage that makes the second leg a far more comfortable affair?
The truth is probably somewhere in-between and the Blues knew they needed to leave Goodison Park within touching distance of the Toffees at the very least.
Playing a fourth semi in six years is quite a feat for any club and, though City's only success to date from those adventures came on 2014, this is clearly a competition the Blues enjoy.
It’s also a tournament City have treated with great respect, fielding strong XIs when several Premier League sides have instead opted to field weakened sides over the years and paid the price.
Manuel Pellegrini made just three changes from the side that beat Watford last weekend with Willy Caballero, Gael Clichy and Fabian Delph starting at the expense of Joe Hart, Aleks Kolarov and Raheem Sterling
...Everton v City...
In a patient opening, the Blues bossed the possession without really threatening while the Toffees had to wait until the half-hour mark to wake up their strangely subdued fans as Gerard Deulofeu slipped Romelu Lukaku through - but Nicolas Otamendi’s timely tackle saved the day.
The hosts then had the ball in the net six minutes later through John Stones but it was correctly ruled out for offside – as was another effort from Lukaku four minutes after - reminders, if needed, that Everton were more than capable of hurting the Blues on their own turf.
City’s best chance of the half fell three minutes before the break when Sergio Aguero was denied from close range by Joel Robles who beat away a powerful drive from eight yards, but in first-half injury time the Blues’ defence was finally breached.
A corner was only partially cleared and Ross Barkley fired in a powerful shot from the end of the box that Caballero could only palm out to Ramiro Funes Mori finished from close range.
It was harsh in a game that had been evenly contested up to that point and there was more than a hint of offside again with Lukaku arguably in Caballero's eyeline, but the warning signs had been there and not entirely heeded.
Eliaquim Mangala made way for Martin Demichelis at the break as the manager presumably opted for a more experienced head in the back four – but the Toffees were well on top in the opening minutes after the break and for a while, it seemed just a matter of time before they increased their lead.
City gradually steadied the ship and Aguero sliced wide from six yards after David Silva had worked an opportunity out of nothing, but moments later Caballero was again forced into a good save as Barkley wrestled free of Otamendi and fired in an angled shot.
Then Robles came to his team’s rescue as a smart move between Silva, De Bruyne and Aguero saw De Bruyne fire in a fierce low shot that was superbly saved by the Spaniard
...Everton v City...
It was the brightest passage of play from the Blues all evening and it was finally rewarded with an equaliser that was made by Aguero who sublimely controlled a long clearance by Fernandinho before waiting for the optimum moment to slip the ball in for Navas who made no mistake from 10 yards.
It was the Spanish winger’s first goal in 66 games and the relief was evident in his celebrations - it was also justice for City who had been denied a clear penalty moments earlier when Navas was clearly felled in the box.
However, the celebrations lasted slightly more than two minutes as the hosts responded in kind as Gareth Barry’s cross was headed home from close range by Lukaku to restore Everton’s slender advantage.
It was to be the last real chance for either side who will resume battle in the Premier League in a week and then battle for a place at Wembley at the Etihad in three weeks’ time.