Former Arsenal man Samir Nasri looked as if he was going to inflict another damaging defeat on Andre Villas-Boas' men when he put City ahead in the first half.
Despite the return of Gareth Bale, Spurs struggled to get in to the game. They lacked cohesion and spirit for most of the game, but they scored three goals in eight minutes to claim a famous victory which means Manchester United will win the title on Monday night if they beat strugglers Aston Villa at home.
Clint Dempsey equalised for Spurs before Jermain Defoe marked his return with a goal and Bale rounded off the win with his 23rd goal of the season in the 82nd minute.
Roberto Mancini will find the trip back up to Lancashire difficult given that his team dominated the majority of the game.
The way in which they folded at the end of the second half demonstrated why they do not deserve to be retain their title, however.
Andre Villas-Boas, on the other hand, can reflect on a much-needed win which puts his team back in the hunt for Champions League qualification.
The Portuguese must take huge credit for Sunday's win. His second-half substitutions, and a change to 4-3-3 in the final stages, proved to be the catalyst for the victory.
Spurs remain in fifth, but their match in hand gives them a big advantage over their bitter rivals Arsenal, who play United next Sunday while Tottenham face lowly Wigan.
With Bale back in the ranks, the Spurs faithful seemed optimistic about their chances of pulling off a much-needed victory.
The early signs were good. Amid a vibrant atmosphere in north London, the Welshman jinked past two defenders and fired a swirling shot which Joe Hart needed two attempts to gather.
The atmosphere soon turned sour though when City opened the scoring. With just over four minutes on the clock, Carlos Tevez stretched the Spurs back four and picked out James Milner, who fed Nasri and he slotted home with a cushioned volley.
A period of scrappy play followed. Kyle Walker needed treatment after a rash challenge from Nasri while Jan Vertonghen needed a change of shirt after being caught by Edin Dzeko's flying arm in an aerial challenge.
Spurs started to come in to the game more, but they still lacked the quality to test Hart.The England stopper was only called in to action once in the first period, saving well from Kyle Walker after he collected Dempsey's reverse pass.
Dawson and Vertonghen threw themselves in to the path of Nasri to force the Frenchman to shoot wide.
Hugo Lloris then had to be at his best to deny Dzeko and Tevez in quick succession, but Spurs then went up the other end and thought they should have had a penalty when Michael Dawson's header struck Gareth Barry's arm, but referee Lee Mason waved play on.
Dempsey had a golden opportunity to equalise just before the break but he headed over from Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto was lucky to stay on the pitch after a mis-timed rash challenge on Pablo Zabaleta that saw him receive a yellow.
Yaya Toure stung Lloris' palms with a rasping drive and it took a brilliant tackle from Vertonghen to stop Tevez from racing clear.
Villas-Boas brought on Tom Huddlestone and Lewis Holtby and switched to a 4-3-3 formation with Bale at the centre of the attack.
Tottenham's push for an equaliser looked destined for failure until the 75th minute.
City backed off Bale and he whipped a low teasing cross which Dempsey converted from close range.
The goal lifted Tottenham's spirits and they threw everything at City. The tactic paid off when Defoe, who had been on the pitch for just seven minutes, latched on to Holtby's through-ball and curled a brilliant shot past Hart.
A carnival atmosphere broke out inside White Hart Lane and the roof nearly came off moments later when Bale killed the game off by lifting the ball over Hart after a brilliant through-ball from Huddlestone.
Aleksander Kolarov curled a free-kick over, but City knew their chance of taking anything from the game had gone and it was Spurs who were rejoicing at the final whistle.