So the priceless game in hand turned out to be worthless after all as we fell to a 2-0 defeat to Everton - a result that leaves us two points back of Tottenham, with both sides having eight games remaining.
With the chance to seize the initiative and stake the claim for fourth spot, we failed to grasp the opportunity as ultimately, it was a better night for those who didn't play (Tottenham and Liverpool) than those who did (ourselves and Aston Villa - held to a 1-1 draw by Sunderland).
For the most part, we were in control of possession and territory, yet failed to really control the game. The chances we created were more opportunities than anything, with Carlos Tevez not quite firing in attack, unable to convert from a couple of promising positions and Craig Bellamy not having the penetrating effect we have seen of late.
Ultimately we paid the price for this. Everton - without venturing too much - looked purposeful when they broke, and most crucially of all, executed well. The first - a Cahill headed from a free kick, with the only surprise being it was just his fourth goal in eleven games against us, whilst the second was a product of excellent work from Rodwell, before a smart finish sealed the victory as we committed more to attack.
There were changes again from Roberto Mancini, Vieira, Garrido and Santa Cruz replaced by de Jong, Ireland and Richards. The restored Ireland never found his feet before being replaced by Ireland, and whilst the introduction of Santa Cruz was the right one, it too often resulted in an over reliance on crosses which were easily dealt with.
We next play on Monday evening against Wigan, which will either prove an advantage or disadvantage depending on how results over the weekend go. The defeat yesterday of course places extra emphasis on the next three fixtures that we have - Wigan, Burnley and Birmingham - all winnable of course, but now needing to make up ground, they will ultimately have to be.