Manchester City handed the initiative back to rivals Manchester United in the chase for the Premiership title despite a dramatic late comeback saw them earn a point in a 3-3 home draw with Sunderland.
This result ended their 100% record at the Etihad Stadium this season but with four minutes remaining it was looking even worse as Sunderland were clinging on to a deserved 3-1 lead.
Manchester City now trail United by two points with the Red Devils having a game in hand on Monday at Blackburn, and victory at Ewood Park would see the team from Old Trafford extend their lead at the top of the table to five points.
City’s away record this campaign has been patchy leaving them increasingly reliant on their home form where they had not dropped a point since February 2011.
Sunderland meanwhile last won at City in 1998 but how the tables were turned as the Black Cats refused to be intimidated and took the lead on the half-hour through Sebastian Larsson.
The game seemed over for the home side after the visitor’s extended their lead soon after the restart. Larsson got his second of the afternoon following a fine move by Sunderland.
And so the score remained with the Black Cats on course for a deserved three points until four minutes were left and Balotelli found the back of the net.
Within a minute and City had grabbed a point as Aleksandar Kolarov fired the equaliser from 18 yards and the unlikely comeback was complete.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Man City scorers: Balotelli pen 44, 85. Kolarov 86
Sunderland scorers: Larsson 31,55, Bendtner 45
TRIBAL ASKS: Could this be the game Man Utd were handed the title?
Yellow cards: Gardner (SUN), De Jong (MANC)