A packed out Pirelli Stadium watched on knowing if Burton Albion somehow managed to progress to the Carabao Cup final they would have witnessed the greatest comeback in the history of soccer.
Manchester City travelled south with a 9-0 aggregate lead having put the Championship side to the sword in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium a fortnight prior.
The opening 45 minutes was surprisingly even with the home side having chances. But it was City who broke the deadlock when Sergio Agüero swept home to cap off a quick team move. It turned out to be the only goal of the game as Pep Guardiola's men ran out 10-0 victors on aggregate.
Despite taking a 9-0 lead into the second leg, Guardiola named a strong looking City side. Ever the professional, the Catalan tactician named Danilo, Fabian Delph, Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Agüero in his starting XI with Gabriel Jesus, John Stones and Benjamin Mendy also included in the travelling squad, taking a place on the bench.
For added context, City's matchday squad cost $414million. Burton's totalled just the $1.3million. This was a real David vs Goliath tie and Guardiola held up his end of the bargain with that XI.
0-1 - The away side took the lead just before the half-hour mark. Mahrez latched onto a sensational De Bruyne pass and squared up the full-back before putting the ball into the path of Agüero. The prolific Argentine made no mistake from close range.
It was a unique match in the sense this was well and truly over before kickoff. There was no chance of an upset and the difference in class was evident. However, the key moment arrived in the 26th minute.
Burton had been putting pressure on the City defense with Arijanet Muric forced into making a stretching save in the 14th minute. Then De Bruyne stepped it up in the middle third and played a pass very few could execute. It was weighted to perfection and allowed Mahrez to stand up his man before finding Agüero. The Algerian is credited with the assist, and Agüero with the goal, but it was due to the fine work of the Belgian.
It will come as no surprise but it was De Bruyne. He's one of the best players in Europe and even though he's lacking match fitness it would have been easy for him to coast through the match at the Pirelli Stadium. But the Belgian superstar was superb.
His exquisite pass created the opener for and he seemed to enjoy his role as the deepest midfielder on the night. Another string to his bow?
What it means
Guardiola's men are into the Carabao Cup final for the second successive year. The match was a foregone conclusion after the first leg at the Etihad but the former FC Barcelona boss showed his class by fielding a strong side, even though the Premier League champions have a number of games on the horizon.
Their opponents at Wembley will be one of Chelsea or Tottenham Hotspur. The two sides face off at Stamford Bridge tomorrow with Spurs taking a 1-0 lead with them.
Burton Albion (4-2-3-1): Collins; Akins ©, McFadzean, Turner (Hutchinson 40), McCrory; Quinn (Fox 45), Wallace; Harness, Miller, Templeton; Boyce (Daniel 77).
Manchester City (4-3-3) Muric; Danilo, Sandler, Garcia, Zinchecko (Mendy 63); De Bruyne (Nmecha 67), Delph, Foden; Mahrez, Poveda-Ocampo; Agüero © (Jesus 62).