Manchester City's faint hopes of winning the Premier League may finally be over after a 1-0 loss at Arsenal in Sunday's latter kick-off.
Mikel Arteta curled the ball inside the post in the 87th minute, allowing Arsenal to consolidate third place.
City had topped the table for most of the season but Manchester United has seized on its neigbhor's collapse over the last month to surge eight points clear with six games remaining.
Even United's 2-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers earlier provided no incentive for City's players.
An indisciplined Balotelli received a second yellow card in the 90th minute for a second lunge on Bacary Sagna having also been booked in the first half. The Italian, already sent off once this season and banned for a stamp on Tottenham's Scott Parker, now risks missing most of the rest of the run-in because of a lengthy ban.
The Gunners meanwhile leapfrogged north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur into third place in the table.
Before kick-off, City manager Roberto Mancini said his richly assembled team had to win if they were to have a chance of being crowned champions of England for the first time since 1968. "Today for us is like a final, otherwise eight points is too much," the Italian told Sky Sports.