MANCHESTER, England (AP) – In the final moments of the Premier League's most dramatic season yet, Manchester City had just enough time to produce one final, stunning twist.
With the club's title hopes fading by the second, with fans anxiously tearing at their hair in the stands as a stubborn Queens Park Rangers clung to a surprising 2-1 lead after 90 minutes, City threw all of its attacking might forward to secure one of English football's greatest comebacks.
Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero both scored in injury time to clinch a 3-2 victory that secured the club's first league title since 1968, finishing ahead of crosstown rival Manchester United on goal difference.
''It's a crazy finish for a crazy season,'' City manager Roberto Mancini said. ''I've never seen a final like this.''
No one had.
After a season where the balance of the title race shifted back and forth between the Manchester clubs numerous times, City looked to have thrown it all away by letting 10-man QPR rally from a goal down to take the lead in the second half, while United completed a 1-0 win at Sunderland.
But Dzeko headed in an equalizer in the second minute of stoppage time to give the City fans hope, and Aguero then clinched the title when he slalomed through the QPR blasted the ball into the net. As Mancini raised his hands and ran along the touchline, Aguero - the son-in-law of Diego Maradona - tore his shirt off in jubilation before he was mobbed by his teammates.
''He was crying on the floor,'' City captain Vincent Kompany said. ''All the guys were pouring their eyes out. You don't see strong personalities like that showing their emotion so often.''
Moments earlier, United had completed its victory at Sunderland and were lingering on the northeast pitch ready to start celebrating title No. 20, waiting for the final result of the City game.
Instead, a party 44 years in the making burst into life back in the blue half of Manchester as fans flooded the City pitch and exploded blue smoke canisters.
''Miracles do happen in Manchester,'' Kompany said. ''This time it's on this side of the road.''
Now United - on the other side of the road - will have to live with the fact that the club once dismissed by manager Alex Ferguson as a ''noisy neighbor'' is now a serious threat to its supremacy.
United had won 19 titles since City last won the English championship for just the second time in 1968. City has since had to climb back into the Premier League from the depths of the third tier in 1999, but became a credible title challenger after a takeover by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour, who has invested more than $1 billion into the club over three years hoping to build a powerhouse.
''It was really important to start winning this championship,'' Mancini said. ''Manchester City can have a big future now.''
The two Manchester rivals have traded places atop the standings all season, but City had to overturn an eight-point lead United held five weeks ago to finish on top.
''We didn't deserve to lose, we had a lot of chances and we deserved to win the game and championship,'' Mancini said. ''It's fantastic for the club and the supporters after 44 years.''
It was the first time the English title was decided in such dramatic circumstances since 1989, when Arsenal and Liverpool finished level on points and had the same goal difference, and the Gunners won the title on total goals.
''I never stopped believing,'' Kompany said. ''When Edin scored that goal, it reminded me of so many other moments during the season when we've done this before. There was no reason not to believe.''
City struggled to break down a QPR side which had been facing relegation on Sunday but survived in the topflight despite losing.
The QPR goal was finally breached in the 39th minute when goalkeeper Paddy Kenny flapped at Pablo Zabaleta's shot while on his knees and palmed the ball over himself into the net.
A blunder by City then nearly led to them throwing away the title.
Joleon Lescott went to make a simple headed clearance but instead knocked the ball backward and Djibril Cisse was primed to seize on the defender's mistake by driving a shot past Joe Hart.
City's task seemed to be made easier when former player Joey Barton lost his cool and threw an elbow at Carlos Tevez as a cross came into the penalty area from Zabaleta.
The QPR captain was seething after receiving the red card by referee Mike Dean and kneed Aguero as he left the pitch, as players from both sides to placate the raging player, who had to be dragged off the pitch.
Despite City enjoying the man advantage, QPR went in front on a rare counterattack.
Armand Traore was given the space to go down the left flank before picking out the unmarked Jamie Mackie in the penalty area and he sent a downward header past Hart in the 66th.
Half an hour later, though, City emerged as 3-2 winners and champions of England.
''When we were losing 2-1, I thought, 'We'll score one goal and we're still going to lose,''' Zabaleta said. ''I don't want to wake up from this. You just look at the players and the fans, everybody deserves this.
''The most important thing for any team is when you believe. If you believe in yourself you win. We believed until the last minute.''
So did United.
In the end, however, Alex Ferguson's side left the Sunderland pitch stunned by what had unfolded. Fans stood with hands on heads in bewildered silence.
''It's a cruel way (to lose the title),'' Ferguson said. ''We've experienced many ups and downs in the 25 years I've been here, most of them have been great. We've won the title three times on the last day; today we nearly did it.''
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris