When the first goal went in, the inevitable should have happened.
But no such disintegration occurred. Tottenham did not crumble, they fired back. Because, for every brush they have been tainted with, every mocking slur they have received, and every lazy label they have been slapped with, Tottenham choose not to be defined by the childish cries of outsiders.
They are, have been, and will continue to be, defined by their charisma in the face of humiliation, their gutsiness when overwhelmed by circumstance, and their staunchness to those who matter most; Mauricio Pochettino, and, perhaps even more so than their now iconic manager, the club's fans.
And it was the fans who suffered greatly during a frenetic opening in a certified Champions League classic.
Just three minutes after Sterling's opener, Son Heung-min, Tottenham's go-to guy for the big occasion, scrambled an effort through Ederson. Three minutes after that, the same clutch performer curled home a peach.
Yes, City roared back. Of course they roared back. A side packed with generational talent from back to front will always roar back. A Pep Guardiola team will not go down as cowards, quitters or shirkers.
But whenever the home side got themselves into a position of strength, they were pegged back. When Aguero put them ahead on aggregate, Fernando Llorente, the so often lamented and maligned Fernando Llorente, bundled one in from a corner. When Sterling seemingly booked City's spot in the semi finals, they were correctly pegged back by the intervention of VAR.
And it's hard to attach any explanation to why things panned out the way they did.
Whether, unbeknownst to those watching, Pochettino got his tactics spot on, there was something in the Manchester air, or football just footballed really, really hard, Wednesday was a reminder of why we come together, almost religiously, to watch and celebrate 22 players kicking a spherical object about for an hour and a half.
We can certainly attach glorious narratives to any football game; City, chasing an unprecedented quadruple, Tottenham aching for glory in just one competition, both sides managed by geniuses, one more than proven and one with plenty of adorers but with no silverware to show for it.
But, ultimately, Wednesday night was not a night for narrative. It was a night for being sucked into another world for 90 minutes, a night for sitting on the edge of your sofa, a night for biting your nails until they start bleeding.
*DO NOT BITE YOUR NAILS UNTIL THEY START BLEEDING, THAT'S OBVIOUSLY HAZARDOUS FOR YOUR HEALTH*
"That is why we love football, we feel the passion, anything can happen, you only need to have the belief." — Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 17, 2019
Mauricio Pochettino and his Tottenham side are in dreamland. pic.twitter.com/E3m385I1d9
When the dust settles, the two sides will be seen for what they are. Tottenham, first time Champions League semi finalists, having not reached that level in Europe since the European Cup days in the 1960s, and City, a generational team custom built for league football but, for whatever reason, unable to make that final step on the continent.
But for now, let us rejoice in what football has been, is, and will continue to be: pure, unadulterated emotion.
Baby, I've been there before
I was at the point where all I really wanted was someone
And now I'm still hangin' on
I was at the end of every tether waitin' for what once was