Yaya Toure belatedly brought his season to life as Manchester City left it late to beat Aston Villa 2-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.
The champions were at risk of losing further ground in the title race ahead of leaders Chelsea hosting Arsenal on Sunday.
But Toure, who once again looked some distance below his best form at Villa Park, broke the deadlock after 82 minutes.
Sergio Aguero, who like Aleksandar Kolarov hit the post earlier in the contest, rifled home a second to make the points safe and place the onus back on Jose Mourinho’s side, with the gap at the summit reduced to two points.
Andreas Weimann scored a dramatic winner in this fixture last year, but was set to be restricted to a place on the Villa bench alongside the returning Christian Benteke until he was promoted into the starting XI to replace Gabriel Agbonlahor, who fell ill during the warm-up.
James Milner came back into the City line-up against his former club alongside defensive duo Eliaquim Mangala and Kolarov as Manuel Pellegrini tinkered with the side that drew with Roma in midweek in the UEFA Champions League.
Nathan Baker flung himself to block a sixth-minute strike by Toure after an ambitious effort from Kolarov was partially cleared.
Kolarov found himself in a more favourable position five minutes later and rattled Brad Guzan’s near post from the left-hand side of Villa’s box.
Hull City 2 – 0 Crystal Palace
Leicester City 2 – 2 Burnley
Liverpool 2 – 1 West Bromwich Albion
Sunderland 3 – 1 Stoke City
Swansea City 2 – 2 Newcastle United
Aston Villa 0 – 2 Manchester City