LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino said Tottenham Hotspur fans should dare to dream of a first league title since 1961 following the 2-1 victory at Manchester City which took them to two points behind the leaders Leicester City.
While this was the fifth consecutive league victory for Pochettino's side, Manuel Pellegrini was left unhappy at the officiating of Mark Clattenburg on Sunday.
The City manager insisted afterwards that the referee was wrong to judge Raheem Sterling had handled Danny Rose's cross and award a 53rd-minute penalty from which Harry Kane opened the scoring.
After substitute Kelechi Iheanacho equalised on 74 minutes, birthday boy Christian Eriksen's late goal secured three points for Spurs.
The north London club's best finish of recent years was third place in the old First Division in 1989-90.
But Pochettino, who celebrated with the travelling fans at the end after watching his side dominate possession (54 per cent), said: "The supporters are right to dream of the title. They showed big support from the beginning of the season and I say thank you to them. It is important for our supporters to believe.
For the first time Manchester City have lost this season with Vincent Kompany in the side.
City's Kelechi Iheanacho scored his third Premier League goal, making him the top-scoring substitute this season.
Tottenham are unbeaten in their last 12 away league games.
The last year in which Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City did not feature in the top two of the table after 26 games.
The previous year in which City lost two consecutive home matches in the Premier League.
"It was a very important victory. Our players deserve full credit for the performance. Like always you need to try and improve every day and we are now in a position, but it is too early to talk about titles."
Pellegrini was clear, though, that Kane should not have had the chance to open the scoring.
The defeat - City's second consecutive home loss after falling 1-3 to Leicester last week - left them fourth in the Premier League table, six points adrift of the Foxes. And Pellegrini's usual calm demeanour was replaced by anger as he questioned the Football Association's decision to appoint referee Clattenburg for the match.
Pellegrini subsequently accused Clattenburg of wanting to award the penalty and gave a scathing assessment of the same referee's performance in the reverse fixture last September.
"It was absolutely the wrong decision, it hit the back of Raheem Sterling then his elbow," he said. "Sterling was not even seeing the ball. It was the same referee in the first game where they were two clear goals in offside and we lost 4-1.
"It was the key moment that decided the game, before that they did not shoot towards our goal and did not have any chances."
Yet, the truth is this result means City's best showing against their three title rivals remains a goal-less draw at Leicester in late December and they have still not beaten a side in the top six. It is not the kind of form to offer convincing evidence Pellegrini could yet guide City to a second title in three years.
"I think they are better teams," the noticeably irritated Chilean said. "We cannot beat them but we will see at the end of the season which is the best team."
If it is Tottenham, ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher believes it would be the most remarkable Premier League story of all - provided Leicester fail to win the title.
"All season Leicester and Claudio Ranieri have been the story - it would be perhaps the greatest story ever in football in this country if Leicester were to win the league," said the Sky Sports pundit.
"If that doesn't happen and Tottenham win the league, I think that'll be the biggest story in Premier League history.
"If you look at the title winners, you expect them to spend big money but Spurs and Mauricio Pochettino have not done that and if they win the league, it will also be the best managerial performance in the Premier League's history."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS