MANCHESTER CITY’S fans gave a rousing chorus of ‘Stand up for the champions’.

While they may only be able to do that for another couple of months, their team at least are not throwing in the towel.

Yesterday’s performance and victory proved that.

Roberto Mancini had been critical of some of his players for not kicking on after last season’s title-winning heroics.

It is true they have not touched the imperious periods they enjoyed either end of a dodgy middle in the last campaign.

But they have suffered in the face of an incredible run from Manchester United.

And, in the end, City will look back to a bad week-and-a-half.

That saw them drop seven points with draws against QPR and Liverpool and an awful defeat to Southampton, in a costly spell spanning the end of last month and the beginning of this.

It was a slip-up they simply could not afford as United took maximum points over the same period. But as Mancini pledged yesterday: “We will continue to work.”

Both City and Chelsea still have the carrot of the FA Cup left and in the Londoners’ case, the Europa League too.

A piece of silverware and a top-three place will hardly be a disaster, although a dispirited Chelsea might be more concerned about staying in the top four.

It could have been different for them yesterday had Frank Lampard not blown a chance from the penalty spot after 50 minutes to grab his 200th Chelsea goal and give them the lead.

But credit Joe Hart for a fantastic save.

City went up a gear after that when Mancini switched things around by bringing on an extra striker in Carlos Tevez.

Yaya Toure provided the opener on 63 minutes and Tevez himself added a thumping second five minutes from time. It was no more than City deserved.

They had enjoyed all the pressure and chances in the first half as Chelsea took to packing their penalty area.

Matija Nastasic and City’s forgotten man Jack Rodwell both had powerful close-range headers well saved.

Yaya Toure had a shot deflected over and Sergio Aguero spurned an opportunity when he chose to try and round Blues keeper Petr Cech rather than shoot.

After this pressure — and Chelsea’s negativity — it must have been all the more galling for Mancini to see his side concede a penalty after the break.

City fell asleep when a long ball from Branislav Ivanovic allowed Demba Ba to get away from Kolo Toure.

Ba went to round Hart, who brought the Chelsea striker down and was lucky not to get even a yellow card for the foul.

Up stepped Lampard, seemingly set to edge closer to the Chelsea club record of 202 goals held by Bobby Tambling.

His kick was hard and true towards the bottom corner — but Hart showed why he is the Premier League’s best as he flung himself full-length to his right to palm the ball away.

Hart has received some criticism this season, not least when Mancini revealed he would not be afraid to drop England’s No 1 if he made any more mistakes.

So you could understand the keeper’s screaming celebration after pulling off his crucial, brilliant stop.

That moment seemed to pep up City and the crowd.

Mancini quickly made the key change of bringing on Tevez.

It quickly paid dividends. James Milner found David Silva in the area and the tricky Spaniard held his man off before nipping the ball back for Yaya Toure.

With a duck of his shoulder he sidestepped two Chelsea players then curled a shot past a third — and Cech — into the far bottom corner.

Fantastic stuff from a player who City fans will have been pleased to read wants to finish his career at the club.

The second goal arrived five minutes from time.

Aguero was full of energy and movement all afternoon and his run initially opened things up before he found the sure touch of Silva to tee up Tevez five yards outside the area.

The Argentine had the time to steady the ball with one touch and then, as Ivanovic stood off, he released a scorching drive that flew past the outstretched arm of Blues keeper Cech.

That was goal 11 of the season for him.

After the game, Mancini publicly thanked the Pope for his eight years’ work at the head of the Catholic church.

With United 12 points clear at the top, Mancini will need the departing Pontiff’s boss to turn this title race around.

City fans will continue to hope and pray.