Sterling the surprise leading man of Man City's title charge
Another late rescue underlines forward's remarkable transformation from flop to leading man
Only one man can make Pep Guardiola take leave of his senses so wilfully and frequently.
Raheem Sterling is succeeding where, for entirely different reasons, both Lionel Messi and Jose Mourinho failed in making the Manchester City manager go crazy.
The forward's last-gasp strike in a 2-1 win over Southampton yesterday morning (Singapore time) maintained his size's massive lead in the table and extended his own personal streak.
Rarely does Guardiola allow anyone to get under his skin; not least those who are supposed to be in thrall to him, be they opposing coaches or even the esteemed Catalan's own players.
Sterling, however, is a special case. For a third time in nine days, he became City's saviour with a curling 96th-minute winner, continuing his impressive run of late, decisive goals.
It was the also the fifth time that the England international has rescued City this season, salvaging a combined 13 points in all competitions.
Like Everton, Bournemouth, Feyenoord Rotterdam and Huddersfield Town before them, the Saints were unwitting accomplices.
In the Premiership, Sterling's late heroics have earned City seven points more than what they would have otherwise got.
Without him, Guardiola's side would find Manchester United snapping at their heels, one point behind instead of the current eight.
At his current rate, Sterling looks set to etch his name into the club's history books as the grand architect of a title procession which has proved more scrappy than swashbuckling of late.
He has stepped up where bigger names have dwindled.
Even in his wildest dreams, Sterling could not have envisaged himself standing above Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus as the club's top scorer with 13 goals (in all competitions).
When Aguero ultimately guided City to their first-ever EPL title, it was still accompanied by a sense of inevitability.
Atletico Madrid's erstwhile talisman matched the expectations which came with a £38 million (S$70m) price tag that now seems like a drop in the ocean.
Not since that chaotic final day of the 2011/12 season has the Etihad witnessed such frenzied and euphoric scenes as the ones which accompanied Sterling's recent late shows.
Guardiola allowed himself to become lost in a moment which he deserved as much as his protege. It was after Sterling's first crucial winning goal against Bournemouth in late August that the former Barcelona boss forecast that he could be "one of the most incredible players" - but only if he began to show a greater level of assertiveness in front of goal.
The 23-year-old's growing influence has been aided by a shift in position with Guardiola affording him greater freedom in a more central role than the previous term, when he had to compensate for a chronic lack of width from deeper positions.
It is not just his new-found confidence for flawless long-range efforts that sets Sterling apart from his previous incarnation.
Even when he is not on the score sheet, the ex-Liverpool prodigy continues to provide City with goalscoring opportunities through his guile and pace.
Conceding set-pieces and penalties has become standard fare for those attempting to shackle him - Arsenal and Huddersfield were both guilty of it this month alone.
He is a far cry from the player who was heavily maligned for both club and country barely 12 months ago.
As the unlikely hero of City's continued EPL title charge, no one is deriding Sterling now.