Manchester City turned on the power to overcome a strong challenge from Southampton to secure a place in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley after recording a 4-1 victory.
Saints were in contention for more than an hour in a tight encounter at St Mary’s after Aymeric Laporte’s own goal on the stroke of half-time cancelled out Raheem Sterling’s early strike.
This FA Cup quarter-final turned on Mohammed Salisu’s reckless challenge on Gabriel Jesus that saw Kevin de Bruyne restore City’s lead from the penalty spot after 62 minutes, effectively ending Southampton’s challenge.
Substitute Phil Foden’s magnificent left-foot strike ended any faint hope of a Saints comeback and, as City took complete control, Riyad Mahrez added a fourth with 12 minutes left.
City will face either Nottingham Forest or Liverpool, who meet at the City Ground later on Sunday, for a place in the final.
Manchester City ran out emphatic winners but until Salisu’s needless intervention that resulted in De Bruyne’s penalty they were threatening to pay a price for carelessness in possession.
Once De Bruyne had scored, however, City showed the quality and ruthlessness that has put them at the top of the Premier League and still in contention for the FA Cup and Champions League.
Manager Pep Guardiola can also introduce such strength off the bench, illustrated by the contributions from Foden and Mahrez.
Foden’s 75th-minute goal was a thing of beauty, a rising drive from 20 yards that made a sweet thudding sounded that echoed around St Mary’s once he struck with his left foot.
Mahrez scored one goal and could have had more but once again the great orchestrator was man-of-the-match De Bruyne, pulling the strings and stepping forward to beat Fraser Forster with a penalty that put City back in charge.
The fact that City can win so convincingly without touching the heights they are capable of will sound an ominous warning to anyone wanting to deprive them of any of those three major prizes they will contest between now and the end of the season.
Southampton were giving as good as they were getting until Salisu’s unnecessary tackle on Jesus, hardly in a dangerous position and with the game in the balance.
City gratefully accepted the gift and a vibrant atmosphere inside a packed St Mary’s was instantly subdued as if both Southampton’s players and fans sensed this was the decisive moment.
And so it proved as City took advantage of deflated Saints, who had played with so much energy and deserved so much credit for that first 62 minutes, even hitting the post through Adam Armstrong at 0-0.
The high-intensity style that has made them such difficult opponents for so many teams this season was rushing City into errors in possession, one of which required a fine save from keeper Zack Steffen moments before De Bruyne put the visitors back in front.
Saints might even have scored a second equaliser when substitute Che Adams’ point-blank effort was blocked by Steffen but this was an FA Cup quarter-final that had its destiny decided by Salisu’s challenge.
This is not to say Southampton would have gone on to win but that incident changed the emphasis of the tie and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team had handed the initiative back to Manchester City, never the best of ideas.
Saints have contributed much to the FA Cup this season but all that remains now is for them to continue to ensure Premier League respectability and consolidation in a season that has contained plenty of promise.