Yaya Toure smashed a long-range equalizer to salvage a 1-1 draw for Manchester City at Stoke on Saturday, handing the initiative to crosstown rival Manchester United in the race for the English Premier League title.
Peter Crouch opened the scoring for Stoke after launching a dipping, 30-yard shot that flew into the top corner in the 59th minute before Toure rescued a point with a thumping drive from even further out in the 76th.
The draw put City ahead of United on goal difference though the latter has a game in hand. The defending champion hosts Fulham on Monday.
City sent assistant David Platt to speak to the media after the match. Platt implied the City manager Roberto Mancini was upset with referee Howard Webb for failing to protect his players.
"It's not a case of being too angry as such," Platt said. "It's just a fear of saying something that will get him in hot water."
Platt said Mancini was particularly unhappy when Stoke midfielder Dean Whitehead led with an arm when challenging for a header with David Silva in the first half that left the Spain international with a bandaged head.
"It's very difficult when you come here and sometimes you look, I suppose, for a bit of protection," Platt said. "He (Mancini) is not happy at this moment in time, but he'll calm down."
Platt also played down United manager Alex Ferguson's claims that bringing Carlos Tevez back after a long-running feud with the club was a sign of desperation on Mancini's part.
"The team that wins the league will be perceived as winning the mind games," Platt said. "Words won't win the league."
City, without injured topscorer Sergio Aguero, struggled to break down the Stoke defense and even Tevez - on as a 74th-minute substitute - was unable to inspire the visitors to victory.
That made it just two wins from nine away from home for City - faltering form that is threatening to spoil the club's title hopes.
"It's important we didn't panic," Yaya Toure said. "It's always difficult to play in Stoke, we have to keep going and continue to work."
Stoke - beaten by City in last season's FA Cup final - seemed content to play on the break, with Cameron Jerome failing with an overhead kick in the 12th minute and Jonathan Walters dragging a short wide in the 16th.
Despite City's dominance, Matthew Etherington's corner almost broke the deadlock in the 41st when his corner eluded everyone in the box and brought a goal-line clearance from Pablo Zabaleta. Stoke also had a shout for a first-half penalty when Gareth Barry seemed to block Glenn Whelan in the box.
Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko had chances either side of halftime before Crouch produced his memorable effort, controlling with one touch before looping a sumptuous volley over Hart and into the opposite top corner from 30 yards.
"I knew as soon as it left my foot that it had a chance," said Crouch. "I practice volleys every day in training, but it doesn't always work out like that."
"Crouch's goal was fantastic," Stoke manager Tony Pulis said. "He does that in training - it's not just a one-off. Technically, he's a very talented young man."
Yaya Toure dragged City level, collecting a Gael Clichy pass 40 yards from goal and unleashing a drive that Begovic reached with a hand but failed to keep out of the goal.
"We are really disappointed with the two points we didn't take but at the end of the day I think it's a good result," City defender Kolo Toure said. "Every point is very important."