A stunning second half comeback by Manchester United saw them overturn a two goal deficit to beat Manchester City 3-2 in a breathless derby match. City will now have to wait at least a little while longer before being able to celebrate what is surely still an inevitable title win.
City looked in complete control by half-time with Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan giving them a comfortable lead, but two rapid goals by Paul Pogba and then a Chris Smalling strike gave the Red Devils bragging rights over their rivals for at least the time being.
With one eye clearly on Tuesday's Champions League clash against Liverpool, Pep Guardiola dropped big names Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker to the bench. Sergio Aguero also began on the sidelines, meaning City started the match without a recognized out-and-out striker, with Bernardo Silva playing furthest forward.
United, meanwhile, made two changes to the side that beat Swansea City 2-0 last weekend, Eric Bailly and Ander Herrera coming in for Juan Mata and Victor Lindelof.
After just five minutes City had a strong appeal for a penalty denied. Ashley Young slipped while attempting to clear a David Silva low cross, and his hand appeared to divert the ball away from danger, but the referee waved play on.
The opening 20 minutes were a fairly even affair, and there was only one half-chance when Sterling slipped through Bernardo Silva, but his poked effort was blocked by David De Gea.
In the 25th minute, however, the Etihad erupted. A Leroy Sane corner was met by a thumping header by fan favourite Kompany, and De Gea had no chance. It was almost an exact replica of the goal he scored in a 1-0 win against United in 2012.
City firmly had the bit between their teeth now, and five minutes later they doubled their lead. A poor De Gea clearance led to Sterling feeding Gundogan, who turned his man brilliantly and calmly finished into the bottom corner from just inside the box. You could almost hear the champagne bottles being cracked open around the ground.
After an assured start United suddenly looked all over the place, and minutes later it should have been three. David Silva threaded a delicious through ball to Sterling, splitting apart the United defence all too easily, but the English international blazed over the bar. Guardiola reacted furiously on the touchline, livid that it wasn't game over. It would prove to be incredibly costly.
Sterling again missed another chance before the break, and United could consider themselves relieved to only go in 2-0 down at half-time. The Citizens were rampant, the Red Devils hopeless.
But United started the second half well, and finally tested City keeper Ederson when Paul Pogba tried his luck from range, with the Brazilian holding on well.
In the 53rd minute United suddenly found themselves back in the game. Alexis Sanchez' cross was chested perfectly by Ander Herrera into the path of Pogba, and the Frenchman finished cooly past Ederson.
And just two minutes later, sensationally, they were level. A delicious Sanchez cross found the head of Pogba, and Ederson was beaten again. It was a stunning turnaround for a team who had seemed down and out at half time, and now it was City's turn to look all at sea.
The game settled down a bit after those two quickfire goals, until in the 69th minute a Sanchez free-kick was volleyed in by Chris Smalling to complete an almost unbelievable turnaround, and send the United fans behind the goal into delirium.
City's party was looking well and truly pooped, and Guardiola soon brought on Jesus, De Bruyne and Aguero to try to save the game.
City then had an even stronger appeal than their first one turned down when Young appeared to go through Aguero in the box. Another referee could have given a penalty and even a red card too, but United escaped punishment again. The decision prompted a mass brawl between players, and the match looked like it was reaching boiling point.
In the dying minutes De Gea made a fantastic save from an Aguero header, and then Sterling hit the post after a corner from mere few yards out. It wasn't to be City's day, and that was their last big chance.
For United it was surely their best result of the season, and supporters may be wondering why their side can't play like they did in the second half on a consistent basis.
City, meanwhile, will have to try and lift themselves for the Champions League, but supporters may be ruing Guardiola's decision to rest key players, and therefore deny them the opportunity of clinching the title in the sweetest manner possible against their bitter rivals.