Manchester City earned a crucial 3-1 win against title rivals Arsenal as the resurgent champions knocked the Gunners off the top of the Premier League on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola’s side showed they are not ready to surrender the title with a ruthless display of finishing that lifted them above Arsenal on goal difference.
Kevin De Bruyne put City ahead in the first half at the Emirates Stadium and, although Bukayo Saka equalised with a controversial penalty, Jack Grealish landed the vital blow in the second half when he restored the visitors’ lead.
Erling Haaland’s 26th goal in 22 league appearances for City killed off Arsenal in the closing stages.
In the most eagerly anticipated Premier League clash this season, City seized the momentum in the title race.
Although Arsenal have a game in hand that could tip the balance back in their favour, City headed home with renewed belief they can win their fight for a fifth title in six seasons.
Having trailed Arsenal by eight points a month ago, Guardiola’s men have won four of their last five league games, while Arsenal have stumbled.
City’s title defence is taking place under a dark cloud after the Premier League last week charged the club with more than 100 breaches of its financial rules between 2009 and 2018.
But the race could yet reach a memorable climax, with City due to host Arsenal on April 26 in what is shaping up to be a do-or-die showdown for both teams.
Bidding for their first Premier League title since 2003-04, Arsenal were unable to subdue City’s battle-hardened stars.
Mikel Arteta’s team have failed to win their last four games in all competitions, losing to City in the FA Cup before a surprise defeat at Everton and Saturday’s draw against Brentford.
Arteta, who worked under Guardiola as assistant to the City boss before joining Arsenal, found out just how hard it is for the apprentice to outwit the teacher.
Guardiola has beaten Arteta in seven of their eight meetings and this was the most significant by far.
City took the lead in the 24th minute when Grealish harassed Takehiro Tomiyasu into a miscued backpass.
City turn the screw
De Bruyne pounced on the mistake with a perfectly-weighted chip from the edge of the area that floated over out-of-position keeper Aaron Ramsdale into the net.
De Bruyne’s first goal since October, and only his fourth this season, was a rare bright spot in a difficult campaign for the Belgium midfielder.
Arsenal drew level in debatable fashion three minutes before half-time.
As Eddie Nketiah flicked a shot goalwards from a tight angle, Ederson raced off his line and collided with the Arsenal striker just before the ball was cleared off the line by Nathan Ake.
Ederson appeared to be trying to pull out of the challenge but Anthony Taylor awarded a penalty despite City’s furious protests and Saka stepped up to send Ederson the wrong way with a nerveless strike.
As the tension mounted after half-time, tempers flared when De Bruyne shoved Arteta and exchanged angry words after the Arsenal boss stopped him collecting the ball.
In the midst of a frantic clash, it was City who kept their heads and gradually turned the screw.
Gabriel’s foul on Haaland was ruled a penalty but the Norway star was just offside when he received Kyle Walker’s pass and the spot-kick decision was overturned.
Yet City’s pressure paid off in the 72nd minute as a sweeping move cut through the Arsenal defence.
Gabriel conceded possession too easily and Silva, Haaland and Ilkay Gundogan exchanged passes before Grealish applied the finishing touch, driving a deflected strike past Ramsdale to send Guardiola into a jubilant, fist-pumping jig on the touchline.
Haaland sealed the points in the 82nd minute, drilling into the far corner from De Bruyne’s cross to underline City’s desire to retain their crown.