Gareth Barry admitted feeling panicked prior to his late heroics that salvaged victory for Manchester City over struggling Reading.
The defending champions had been in danger of dropping vital points, with league leaders Manchester United six points ahead prior to the game, before Barry headed home in injury time to snatch a 1-0 win at the Etihad.
Midfielder Barry said: "I am relieved and delighted at the same time, to get a goal that late.
"You are starting, probably, to panic, thinking we are going to drop some big points at home again.
"It is difficult, especially when you don't get the breakthrough early.
"The longer the game goes on the more you could see the Reading players growing in confidence.
"They started to believe they could keep us out for the 90 minutes. Even towards the end they were believing they could maybe get the winning goal."
Reading boss Brian McDermott claimed the decision by referee Mike Dean to award the goal, as well as earlier denying his side a penalty, had ruined his Christmas.
Barry felt he had simply been playing for the ball.
He said: "At the time I felt I just got up and Nicky Shorey was just standing there.
"I probably went over the top of him. I'm delighted the referee hasn't seen it as a foul."
City dominated in all departments and had 17 attempts on goal to their opponents' six, and after failing to make the most of a clear superiority, they fought to the bitter end.
Barry, 31, added on City TV: "You have got to [keep going] at this level. We scored so many late goals last season and a few this year.
"Those late goals can be so important at the end of the season and hopefully that will be another one."
With three more games to come in just over a week, Barry felt the points were vital to keep the pressure on United.
He said: "It is very important. When there is a little gap it is important you don't slip away too much further.
"If we can keep chipping away we are going to be there at the end of the season."