EDIN Dzeko’s 50th Manchester City goal proved enough to see off a dogged Crystal Palace outfit and send the Blues top of the Premier League.
The Bosnian steered home Jesus Navas’ cut-back midway through the second period to give City their tenth successive victory at the Etihad.
Yet, after magical performances earlier in the season, this fell into the “win ugly” category.
Palace worked with an impressive intensity throughout and City were indebted to superb saves from Joe Hart to deny Jason Puncheon and Joel Ward either side of Dzeko’s tenth goal of the season in all competitions, but his first in the Premier League for eight weeks.
On statistics alone, Palace might as well not have bothered turning up. The Eagles had not beaten City away from home since 1990, while City’s Boxing Day win over Liverpool had been their ninth win in nine, a sequence that had yielded 37 goals.
Yet despite this gloomy backdrop, Palace still managed to become only the second team since Hull on 31 August to prevent City from establishing superiority by half time, thanks to good, old-fashioned graft and a little luck.
Filling their own box any time City got close – which was fairly frequently – they managed to keep chances to a minimum.
James Milner flashed a couple of efforts narrowly wide and David Silva was not far away from an impossibly acute angle.
But it was not until Fernandinho ventured forward late in that opening period that Julian Speroni’s goal came under severe threat.
The Brazilian lashed a shot over after a brilliant piece of skill had created the opportunity.
He then saw his powerful header touched over by Speroni before having another effort blocked amid a melee inside the Palace area.
While it was not exactly comfortable for the visitors, they were sufficiently confident to push forward themselves when the chance arose. Nevertheless, Hart did not have a shot to save. The England keeper still picked up a nasty gash under his eye, though, as a result of a full-blooded challenge with Cameron Jerome that saw the Palace forward hobble off.
Hart was called into action straight after the restart, as Puncheon unleashed a fierce shot from 25 yards, which the keeper turned behind.
Marouane Chamakh was not too far away from turning the corner home and City manager Manuel Pellegrini wasted little time in introducing Samir Nasri and Alvaro Negredo.
Palace’s confidence was growing and Hart was little more than a spectator as Puncheon curled a shot that would not have been kept out had it been slightly more accurate.
Such was the verve with which Palace had started the second half that Dzeko’s goal came as something of a surprise.
Damien Delaney thought he had cleared the immediate danger when he got his head to Silva’s teasing cross.
But Jesus Navas hunted the ball down to the by-line, then picked out Dzeko with a superb cut-back that invited the first-time finish from the Bosnian.
Palace responded admirably. Ward’s dipping volley was heading for the bottom corner until Hart got a fingertip to it.
Ward then got his head on the far-post corner, but failed to keep the attempt on target.
Pellegrini’s decision to shelve the intention to introduce Yaya Toure and instead bring on the more defensive Aleksander Kolarov said it all as City scrambled to victory.