When Sergio Aguero bagged his second goal of the afternoon less than a minute into the second half at the Craven Cottage, increasing Manchester City's seemingly insurmountable lead to 2-0, the story seemed to already have been written for me.
"Manchester City dominates again, remains locked with Manchester United atop the table."
But a funny thing happened in the 52nd minute. Moussa Dembele fed a ball to Clint Dempsey atop the box, who then thread another pass to Bobby Zamora just inside the box, who took a quick touch, opened and fired an unmistakably classy finish, putting Fulham on the board and cutting City's lead in half.
It was only a goal, and City looked likely to dominate for the remainder of the match. Except, they didn't. Fulham did, or did for a significant portion at least.
And in the 75th minute, when Danny Murphy's shot took a fortunate deflection off of Vincent Kompany and past goalkeeper Joe Hart, the Cottagers deservedly leveled the score, a score that would remain level for the remainder of the match.
A breathtaking match and an eye-opening result.
Manchester City took the game to Fulham right from the start, as it had done in English Premier League play all season. Threading pass after pass, Aguero making consistently dangerous runs, turning the idea of offside an afterthought. While the left side of Fulham's defense, featuring Brede Hangeland and John Arne Riise, could inspire confidence, the right side of Chris Baird and Stephen Kelly, the fifth choice center back and second choice right back, were less inspiring.
Aguero put the Citizens ahead in the 18th, slinking past Fulham's slightly staggered line, Riise's dragged foot keeping him onside. City continued to push the envelope for the remainder of the half, Mark Schwarzer's heroics allowing the Whites to stay within one until the whistle.
The visitors' lead wouldn't stand at one goal for long. On their first attack after the restart, City surged forward and Aguero nabbed his second. Trying times for the hosts.
Fulham managed occasional moments of clarity in link-up play in the first half, holding the ball for periods of time to spell the defense while only managing the occasional shot from outside of the box, Dempsey the most likely culprit. Still seemingly disjointed after City's second, Fulham found a first. It was against the run of play and didn't really seem to signify much, perhaps simply a scoreline that didn't look as bad as the game actually was.
But Fulham worked its way into the game, got stronger and stronger. Dembele flowing into the game, Dempsey making aggressive runs, Zamora giving the defense fits. Perhaps even more indicative of the change were the sudden appearances of central midfielders Murphy and Steve Sidwell, subdued early but suddenly influential.
Manchester City were suddenly on their back heels, Fulham surging forward with wave after wave of attack, shot after shot. Some were close, some went well wide. Dempsey was played through off of a deflected pass from Kelly, but an impressive, last-ditch tackle from Micah Richards saved the day. Later, Dembele would make a smooth run just outside the top of the box, firing a screened shot with his left foot that Hart caught sight of late and impressively dove to save.
Sensing the tide was turning, City manager Roberto Mancini brought in defensive midfielder Pablo Zabaleta to replace David Silva, influential in the first half but less-so in the second. The intent of the move was clear: kill the game, hold the lead. What it really signified was that City were on their back heels and needed to do something to slow the Whites down.
Fulham continued to attack and, finally, a found breakthrough in the 75th. Murphy, renowned for his distribution skills and less-so for his ability to score goals away from the penalty spot, fired a low, hard shot from outside the box. A fortunate deflection, Hart scrambling, a goal. His first of the season, Fulham's second of the second half, and their highest scoring output in a Premier League game at this early point of season.
Manager Martin Jol's preferred fluid style of play, lambasted on message boards for the last few weeks, suddenly seemed poignant, rather than aimless. Fulham's attack seemed biting, rather than toothless. It was all a lot for the cynically prepared mind to take on.
Mancini tapped finally tapped the wealth of influential reserves on his bench, bringing on Argentinian and England internationals Carlos Tevez and Adam Johnson put the Citizens back on the attacking foot. They helped, and City pressed hard for an equalizer late. But it was not enough. From two down, Fulham had drawn against league pace-setters Manchester City.
Was this the same Fulham team that looked entirely second rate at Wolverhampton weeks ago? The side that drew at home to FC Twente in the Europa League on Thursday? Somehow, it was.
I had it in my mind at one point to write something about how, even though Fulham lost, they found their attacking impetus in the second half and could move on positively from here. Instead, they earned a result. The first team to take any points from Manchester City. A deserved and well earned result.
Oh how quickly the prospects of a season can change in the blink of an eye.