Roy Hodgson never looked like being the man to bring the league title back to Anfield. Should Liverpool become champions for the first time since 1990, however, they may owe a debt of gratitude to their least popular manager of modern times.
Liverpool take a four-point lead into Christmas after Hodgson's Crystal Palace produced arguably the most unexpected result of the season to date in their 3-2 win over reigning champions Manchester City.
A side with a solitary point in their previous six away games ended the country's only 100 per cent home league record. Manchester City were defeated and seemingly dumbfounded. Palace, who had not even scored a league goal at the Etihad Stadium since 2005, mustered three in 18 minutes. Andros Townsend's thunderbolt was the shot that reshaped the title race.
City delivered an unusually ragged display to get an uncharacteristic result as, for the first time in 23 months, they lost a league game to anyone outside the 'big six'. While their supporters spent the early exchanges chorusing 'bring back Mourinho', they had greater concerns as, despite taking the lead, they were condemned to defeat.
City have now gone eight games without keeping a clean sheet. If they were a byword for defensive excellence earlier in the season, they have made more mistakes of late. Palace punished them.
If John Stones was blameless, he was also luckless, playing a part in Palace's first two goals. Deputising for the injured Fernandinho, City's stand-in holding midfielder slid in to dispossess James McArthur. But the ball fell for Jeffrey Schlupp to angle a shot beyond Ederson.
If the goalkeeper was beaten by precision then, he was defeated by raw power a couple of minutes later. Townsend connected beautifully with the sweetest of volleys, but a wonderful goal from his perspective was an avoidable one from City's. Stones won the first header, meeting Patrick van Aanholt's free kick, but then Gundogan missed his and Silva redirected the ball to Townsend who fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner of Ederson's goal.
Townsend's catalytic impact was apparent again in Palace's third goal. The England international headed against the post and as Max Meyer reached the rebound, Kyle Walker chopped him down. It completed a wretched afternoon for the right-back but Luka Milivojevic reinforced his reputation as a penalty specialist with a coolly dispatched effort.
City mounted a response. Sane struck the post with a free kick. De Bruyne halved the deficit with a cross that sailed over Guaita and in.
If Pep Guardiola deemed this the most winnable of City's festive fixtures when he decided to ease Sergio Aguero and De Bruyne back into top-flight football, the gamble of beginning with both on the bench backfired. The Belgian was outstanding when he came on, but it amounted to a remarkable result for Palace and the Premier League alike.
They weren't the only top four side to be stunned heading into the Christmas period, with Leicester claiming a 1-0 away win over fourth placed Chelsea thanks to a late Jamie Vardy goal.