The winning goal capped a dramatic 3-2 encounter and saw Jose Mourinho slide across the turf in celebration as his side provided the ultimate response to his pre-match challenge in the wake of their shaky start in La Liga. It had looked though looked like Mourinho's woes would continue as Edin Dzeko and the Aleksandar Kolarov put City ahead before first Marcelo, the Karim Benzema levelled before Ronaldo, himself a headline maker of late, won the points.
The win was no more than Real deserved, their dominance in terms of possession and shots at goal was thwarted time and again by Joe Hart, but City will be left kicking themselves with the manner of the defeat as seldom do sides put themselves in such advantageous positions as they found themselves in.
Both managers sprung surprises in their starting line-ups with first choice defenders Sergio Ramos and Joleon Lescott confined to the bench in favour of the inexperienced Raphael Varane and Matija Mastasic, whilst Mourinho also left out Luka Modric and Mesut Ozil. It was Real who started the brighter of the sides with Ronald twice forcing smart saves from Hart in the City goal, with the Blues beginning nervously, unable to control the possession and tempo of the game as they so often do in the Premier League and it wasn't until the nineteenth minute of the game that they fashioned their first genuine opportunity.
They did however grow into the contest, drive forward by the irrepressible force of Yaya Toure, who was unable though to find the requisite final ball. Samir Nasri exited the game shortly before half time with a hamstring injury, replaced by Kolarov and the enforced move did appear to provide a greater attacking threat with the early stages of the second half evenly matched.
On the hour, David Silva was replaced by Edin Dzeko as Roberto Mancini altered his set up once again and the move would prove to be a smart one as another Yaya Toure burst through the defence saw him release the Bosnian who slotted coolly past Iker Casillas.
The goal stung Real. After their first half superiority they had seen City forge their way back into the game but Real sensed the urgency and after going close on two previous occasions Marcelo curled a shot past the reach of Hart to level.
Mourinho turned to his star studded bench, bringing on both Ozil and Modric for Sami Kheidera and Michael Essien and Real increased the tempo, stretching City and Hart being at his best to stop shots from Benzema, Alonso and Modric.
It appeared inevitable that Real would get a second but City struck back. Kolarov's free kick from the touchline glancing the outstretched leg of Alonso and beyond Casillas to put the Blues ahead once again. The lead was to last barely a minute though as a smart turn and shot from Benzema once again brought Real on level terms to leave City contemplating the consolation of taking home a point.
But Ronaldo, who else, would steal the spotlight in the final seconds to leave City empty handed.