"Ee Sala Cup Nammade" (This time the cup is ours) is a popular slogan Royal Challengers Bangalore have adopted from Bengaluru Football Club (BFC), their next door neighbours. BFC proudly wore the tag during a stunning debut season in the Indian Super League, which ended in a heartbreaking loss in the final.

The slogan has resonated across the city, so much that even AB de Villiers' son and wife were proudly saying it loud to their autorickshaw driver in Kannada. If RCB are now looking for a new one for the second half of the season, "we can defend totals" won't be a bad place to start.

For five successive games at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, going back to the previous season, they had failed to do so. Two nights ago, Virat Kohli went to the extent of calling his team's bowling "not good enough" and "shocking" after seeing a defence of 175 go cold against Kolkata Knight Riders. Last week, he called the bowling "criminal" as MS Dhoni's brutal ball-striking took Chennai Super Kings home with four balls to spare in a chase of 206, after needing 71 off the last five overs.

Now, against Mumbai Indians, a win was non-negotiable if RCB had to keep their playoff ambitions burning, and Kohli, surprisingly, was at his calmest.

At the halfway mark, a sense of calm emanated from his team even as Mitchell McClenaghan sat on his haunches, having conceded 24 off the final over, of which Colin de Grandhomme, his New Zealand team-mate, had smacked 21.

At the dugout, two other Kiwis, Brendon McCullum and head coach Daniel Vettori, exchanged fist bumps even as another, their former team-mate and current Mumbai bowling coach Shane Bond, scribbled furiously into his notepad. RCB had put up 167, which Bond later said was "15 above par."

Where Mumbai's quicks tried to change pace and hit hard lengths, Tim Southee went full. This length allowed him to swerve one back in to clean bowl Ishan Kishan in the first over. It was up to Umesh Yadav to keep up his side of the bargain. For the third time this season, he struck off consecutive balls in the Powerplay, dismissing Suryakumar Yadav and Rohit Sharma with good-length deliveries that cut back in sharply.

As was the case on Sunday, there was grip and turn off the surface. Yuzvendra Chahal turned it square and bowled out by the 13th over with figures of 4-0-23-0. Umesh was done by the 15th, with 2 for 29.

The game wasn't yet in RCB's bag, since the offspinner Washington Sundar, who had replaced M Ashwin, had endured an off day, conceding 15 in his first over. Where a bit of air and revs could have helped him extract turn off the surface, he had bowled flat, into Hardik Pandya's hitting arc.

With Kohli not trusting Sundar with another over, he finally turned to de Grandhomme, who hadn't bowled a ball in his first two matches of the season - with Corey Anderson trusted at the death ahead of him - and in this game had batted behind Southee. Given de Grandhomme's international form and T20 record, those moves - especially the latter - might have puzzled Anderson and Southee, his New Zealand team-mates, as much as anyone.

Having earlier shown what he could do with the bat, de Grandhomme now conceded only 11 off his first two overs, somewhat making up for a third over, the 16th, that went for 17. The game was now in the balance, with Mumbai needing 45 off four overs with Hardik on 40 off 33 and his brother Krunal on 16 off 10.

Kohli had solved one problem, but now had another. Bowling out Umesh by the 15th over meant he had look Mohammed Siraj's way despite him going at an economy rate of 9.44 in his five games so far. His death bowling may have raised questions over his utility, but he sent down a reasonable 17th, conceding only 10 to set it up for Southee, who was to bowl the 18th and the 20th over.

The equation was within the reach of the Pandya brothers, but Southee made it 30 off 12 with an outstanding 18th over, mixing up slower offcutters and two searing full ones, in or around the blockhole. The pressure told on Krunal, who fell trying a scoop over short fine-leg off Siraj in the next over, and RCB could breathe a little easier. Defending 25 off the last over, Southee dismissed Hardik first ball, caught at long-off, and closed out the game with dots off his third, fourth and fifth balls.

For the first time, a bowling attack that Kohli had referred to as RCB's "best ever" before the season had delivered. It was also perhaps the first time this season that Kohli wasn't constantly in his bowlers' ears at all times. It was also the first time this season that bowling coach Ashish Nehra sported his trademark wide grin in the dugout. It might be too early for their fans to chant "Ee Sala Cup Nammade", but RCB's fate was still in their hands.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo