Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini claims his team never gave up hope of winning the Barclays Premier League crown.
Mancini publicly declared the title race over after City crashed to a damaging defeat at Arsenal last month, a result which left them eight points behind Manchester United.
But City clawed back that deficit in the space of their next four games, including a derby victory over United at the Etihad Stadium.
They now head into Sunday's final fixture against QPR leading the table from United on goal difference and, looking back, Mancini feels the Emirates Stadium reverse was a blessing in disguise.
The Italian said: "In the moment it was good for us, it took off all our pressure.
"For two or three games we played completely free.
"We believed we could play a derby three or two points behind.
"We believed always, also when we were eight points behind."
Barring an unlikely landslide win for United at Sunderland, City know victory over QPR at home will guarantee their first title since 1968.
Mancini feels that is a success his side would deserve for playing the best football in the country this season.
He said: "We have played the better football, 100 per cent. Even if we don't win, we played the better football."
Mancini's title destiny will be settled in a contest with his predecessor Mark Hughes, the QPR boss who was sacked by City in December 2009.
The match is also a critical one for Hughes, whose side need a point to guarantee avoiding relegation.
Hughes has previously criticized Mancini's managerial style but the Italian has no stomach to be drawn into a debate on that subject.
"I agree with him," he said. "He is a good manager and he knows better than me the Premier League."
Mancini has also downplayed attempts to build up the clash as a grudge match between the pair.
He said: "I don't know him very well but it is not Mancini against Hughes or Hughes against Mancini. It is City against QPR."
Mancini has also played down the significance of comments from midfield talisman Yaya Toure this week suggesting he would like to finish his career back at former club Barcelona.
Mancini believes the remarks have been misinterpreted and the Ivory Coast international, signed from Barca for £24million two years ago, has no intention of leaving.
He said: "I don't think Yaya said this [he wants to leave].
"Maybe he said he likes Barca because he played there, Barca is the best team in the world.
"But I think he is happy here. I don't think he can leave Manchester City."