The Premier League side appeared nine minutes away when their in-form England ace ignited a dramatic late revival from a shock fourth-round exit.
Thanks to one man, Phil Foden, Manchester City prevented being on the receiving end of what must have been the biggest shock in FA Cup history.
The side of Pep Guardiola were nine minutes away from enduring an embarrassing fourth-round exit at League Two Cheltenham Town when Alfie May’s opener was cancelled out by their in-form England international, paving the way for Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres’ late goals to secure a 3-1 victory.
It would have been hard to grasp the importance of the loss.
In the past, non-league sides have defeated teams from the top flight in England, but there has seldom been such a greater gap in wealth between two rivals in the 150-year history of the sport.
City began with eight full internationals, with another eight on the bench, stressing that this is an expensively constructed team designed to challenge the Champions League, not toil against a club that cost £ 50,000 ($ 68,000) to sign the record.
Yet the unthinkable nearly happened when, in the 58th minute, May pounced on a loose ball to bundle home an unexpected opener that shocked the Premier League side.
It was Foden, nevertheless, who spared the blushes of his club, lifting his squad almost single-handedly out of the trouble they had gotten themselves into.
Foden may be just 20, but he saw his side experience giant kills, most notably against Wigan, who shocked City in the 2013 FA Cup final three years ago before shocking them again.
But he wasn’t going to let City, not on his watch, suffer a similar fate here. Foden was comfortably the most inventive attacking force in City and led from the front, with several senior players rested and Kevin De Bruyne ruled out by injury.
Jesus and Riyad Mahrez had set up his perfect passes for gold-edged possibilities, but the Brazilian hit the post, while Joshua Griffiths, who played sensationally in the Cheltenham goal, denied the Algerian.
And Foden took on the task of getting the equaliser himself with panic beginning to set in, drifting into the box to volley home Joao Cancelo’s cross to the far post with the kind of composure so so desperately missing among his fellow forwards.
Three minutes later, however, Jesus eventually took a chance to fully calm the nerves of City before Torres scored in injury time to add a flattering gloss to the scoreline, but the victory owed Foden everything.
This season, with nine, his main objective makes him City’s top scorer, meaning he has already exceeded his tally for the entire 2019-20 campaign.
He now looks perfectly prepared to play a pivotal role in the current quadruple pursuit by Region.