A RUTHLESS display of attacking and finishing from Manchester City saw them narrow the gap on Barclays Premier League leaders United to just two points after they powered to a 6-1 victory over the Canaries at Carrow Road.
A hat-trick for Carlos Tevez and a brace from his fellow Argentinian Sergio Aguero did the damage, with England international Adam Johnson scoring their sixth in injury time.
In an open game the super-rich Lancashire side were at times posed searching questions by the Canaries, particularly at the start of the second half when Andrew Surman netted to briefly reduced the scoreline to 2-1.
But as Norwich legs tired the sheer quality of Man City's expensively-assembled strikeforce shone through and ultimately was too hot for the Canaries to handle on the day as the Blues won thanks to a second-half flurry of goals.
Afterwards City boss Paul Lambert said he felt the scoreline of 6-1 was harsh on the Canaries after they had given the visitors a real run for their money and the score stood at just 2-1 in the 72nd minute. But a flurry of three goals in seven minutes turned the match on its head.
"For 72 minutes of that game we were well in it and looked threatening every time we got forward," said Lambert. "But then we lost three goals in the space of seven minutes which is unlike us but I also know that can happen against that calibre of side.
"If you look at their two front lads you've got to hold your hands up and say they are two top players; their finishing was lethal. That is the level we're up against but we'll make no apologies because we've been terrific this season.
"We'll dust ourselves and go again against Blackburn next weekend."
Before the game Lambert named an unchanged starting line-up following the fantastic Easter Monday win away at Tottenham, with Aaron Wilbraham once again given the nod to continue the attacking partnership with Holt which caused so many problems for Spurs at White Hart Lane.
Meanwhile Manchester City, desperate for maximum points to maintain the pressure on leaders Manchester United, fielded their usual assembly of top stars, with their starting line-up including the likes of Tevez, Nasri, Clichy, Silva and Aguero, to name but a few.
There was a bright, open start to the match and Pilkington nearly made it a sensational opening for Norwich when he led a Canary break the length of the pitch and into the Manchester City box before bending a low effort narrowly wide of the far post in the fourth minute.
At the other end Silva forced Ruddy to make a smart diving parry to keep out a stinging drive from 14 yards a minute later.
In the eighth minute Tevez crashed to the pitch inside the area under a challenge from Ryan Bennett - and was promptly shown the yellow card by referee Chris Foy for diving.
Holt went very close in the 13th minute, his close-range header nodded off the line by Lescott - though Man City felt their 'keeper Hart had been impeded in the build-up.
But a positive start by the Canaries was cancelled out in spectacular fashion in the 17th minute when after a slip by Ward the ball fell to Tevez. The Argentinian was still some distance from goal when he surprised everyone - including perhaps Ruddy - as he unleashed a vicious swerving effort from outside the area which flew into the back of the net.
Norwich were knocked back by this bolt from the Blues and they went further behind nine minutes later to another one, Tevez this time turning provider with a crisp backheel to set up Aguero to finish with a rifled effort past Ruddy.
In the 34th minute as Norwich began to rally from their double setback, Russell Martin's low ball into the box was met by a useful snapshot on the turn from Holt, but Hart was alert to the danger and made the save.
Half-time: Norwich City 0, Manchester City 2
Norwich made a double change at the interval, with Wes Hoolahan and Andrew Surman coming on for Johnson and Pilkington respectively.
The Canaries made a positive start to the half and on 50 minutes a patient build-up ended with a mis-hit shot from Holt wide of the post after Hoolahan picked him out in a crowded box.
But the subs were making an impact and it was Surman who fired Norwich back into the match five minutes after the break, bringing down Hart's looping punch-out before rifling home with a neat finish.
The Blues were always a threat at the other end though and City had Ruddy to be thankful for, for keeping the deficit to one as he produced a great reaction save to palm over Aguero's well-struck shot.
In the 58th minute Ryan Bennett was booked as he brought down Tevez just as the Argentine threatened to burst through the centre of the Norwich defence.
Five minutes later Roberto Mancini made his first substitution of the afternoon as Nasri was replaced by Yaya Toure.
In the 67th minute Wilbraham had a shot well blocked by Gareth Barry after Hoolahan set him up following a great run by the Irishman. It was to be Wilbraham's last contribution as he was replaced a minute later by Steve Morison.
But as in the first half Norwich's bright opening to the period was knocked back as Tevez grabbed his second of the match to make it 3-1 in the 72nd minute, heading home for close range as Ruddy parried Yaya Toure's shot and it looped up conveniently for the Argentinian international.
Within a minute it was 4-1 and effectively game over as Aguero scored his second of the game, another quality strike as he curled it past Ruddy from just inside the area.
And there was still a full ten minutes of normal time to play when Tevez completed his hat-trick, latching on to a tired backpass from Ryan Bennett before rounding Ruddy to score a simple goal to make it 5-1.
It had been a devastating display of finishing from the visitors and they found time for Johnson to hit the bar and Aguero to hit the post in the closing stages before Johnson wrapped up an emphatic win for them as he side-footed home in injury time.
Full-time: Norwich City 1, Manchester City 6
Norwich City: Ruddy, Martin, Drury, Johnson (Hoolahan 46), Holt (c), Pilkington (Surman 46), E.Bennett, Wilbraham (Morison 68), Ward, Howson, R.Bennett. Subs not used: Steer, Jackson, Fox, Naughton.
Manchester City: Hart, Kompany (c), Zabaleta, Lescott, Aguero, Barry, Nasri (Toure 63), Silva (Johnson 75), Clichy, Tevez (Richards 81), De Jong. Subs not used: Pantilimon, Milner, Dzeko, Kolarov.
Referee: Chris Foy