After another humbling at the hands of Manchester City, it seems perverse for Fulham fans to be pleased with what they witnessed. After all, playing such adventurous football at the Etihad Stadium against England’s most ruthless operators was surely a recipe for disaster. The Slavisa Jokanovic blueprint looks marvellous in the Championship, but toothless in the top flight. That’s what we learnt from the 2018 exhibition, however harshly it came to an end, isn’t it?

Marco Silva isn’t a man who compromises on his principles and this thrilling Fulham side were true to his word. He talked about respecting the FA Cup and there were only three changes to the team that had taken on Blackpool. He promised to take the game to Manchester City and, boy, how Fulham did that. If by the end, the gulf in class was apparent, the visitors more than match their illustrious opponents in a gloriously wild first 45 minutes – and this was far more entertaining than sticking ten men behind the ball and being pulled apart in any case.

Fulham’s first goal at the Etihad for more than a decade was absolutely magnificent. It had its genesis in their commitment to playing out from the back but the three players who make them so dangerous were prominently involved. City had committed numbers forward and Fulham constructed the perfect counter-attack. Sparked by a sumptuous pass out to the right by Aleksandar Mitrovic, an illustration of why the Serb is much more than just a target man, Harry Wilson surged down the right and measured a cross for Fabio Carvalho to stroke the Londoners ahead with ease. Kyle Walker and John Stones looked at each other non-plussed as well they might. Only three Premier League sides have scored at Manchester City, just one has had the temerity to take the lead.

It had to Carvalho, of course. The twinkle-toed teenager was everywhere, trying little tricks, spreading the play with perceptive passes and, most of all, frightening the life out of the best team in England. His move to Liverpool might have fallen through on transfer deadline day, but you would never have known. He belongs on a stage like this and, you suspect, he soon will be. It is worth enjoying his prodigious talent while we can but Carvalho is special. He should have had a second goal, fluffing a simple finish when Neeskens Kebano’s second half thunderbolt had come back off Zack Steffen, but this was a performance that proves he will thrive at this level.

Fulham’s passing was precise and yet purposeful. They played at a pace that visibly unsettled City and Pep Guardiola, who could be seen pointing and cajoling from his technical area. One mesmerising move saw Nathaniel Chalobah, encouraging in a central midfield role before he succumbed to one of the many batterings he took from the City midfield, and Carvalho combine to set up a chance for Mitrovic, who spun and shot wide. Fulham finished the half with 48% possession and another startling statistic showed just how unusual this all us. Only Paris Saint-Germain had bettered the Londoners’ 197 passes in 45 minutes at Etihad all season. Silva’s side, with the emphasis on attack, didn’t look out of company against the Premier League leaders.

Eventually, of course the hosts pulled away. That should be no surprise. Pep Guardiola’s starting eleven cost £470m. What will infuriate Silva was that the goals Fulham conceded were so preventable. The ball rattled around their penalty area before Ilkay Gundogan forced home an equaliser only a minute and a half after Carvalho had stunned the home fans into silence: any chance of success, however implausible, surely relied on the Whites holding onto their advantage for a little longer. The second came courtesy of shambolic defending at a set play, where Fulham have been strong this season. John Stones found it far too easy to force home Kevin de Bruyne’s corner at the near post.

The second half was always going to be more challenging and, if we are honest, it was a relief that Fulham only conceded two more. Joe Bryan’s attempt to stop Jack Grealish slalom run was ill-advised, even if the England international made the most of minimal contact and Riyad Mahrez, who had thumped home the penalty, had another four minutes later laid on a plate for him by de Bruyne after a shocking pass from Harrison Reed. Going toe-to-toe with Manchester City is a dangerous business, but there was enough about this enterprising Fulham display to encourage.

Two tasks are now paramount. Silva’s side have to take that sense of adventure back to their promotion push – starting with the visit of Millwall on Tuesday. Nothing is won yet and the Championship is no respecter of reputations. Fulham most learn from City’s ruthlessness and keep their foot on the accelerator. The Portuguese head coach will have an idea of what he wants to build a team for the top flight. He doesn’t seem to be for turning – so he’ll need to be given what he requires come the summer. Playing with such advanced full backs and a penchant for passing definitely invites danger, but it definitely won’t be dull.