Joleon Lescott scored the only goal of the game as Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League with a gritty win over Aston Villa.
City went into this game a point behind Manchester United and almost took the lead when Adam Johnson struck the post.
Villa's resistance was broken after the hour when Lescott hooked in from close range following James Milner's corner.
Alex McLeish's men have now not won at home since a 3-2 victory over Norwich on 5 November, seven games ago.
In contrast, City have found life on the road difficult in recent weeks, winning just one of their previous six games - and scoring only three goals in the process.
With United taking four points from their last two games against Chelsea and Liverpool, City found themselves off the top of the table for the first time since September.
From the start, City struggled to convert their possession into clear chances.
Milner should have done better but, after David Silva slid the ball into his path, the England midfielder could not untangle his feet to get a meaningful shot away.
Johnson, starting back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since October, came closest to breaking the deadlock, cutting infield from the right and striking the outside of the post.
With James Collins restored to the Villa defence, the home side looked solid at the back but failed to trouble Joe Hart, who only had two routine Richard Dunne headers to deal with.
There are signs that Silva is recreating the instinctive understanding he had with David Villa at Valencia with Sergio Aguero at City. But, while Aguero was a constant menace, the Argentine didn't have a vintage day in front of goal, squandering several openings.
Aston Villa defended well for the most part - containing the lively Silva in the second half - but were undone when Lescott scored what proved the winner.
Milner's corner from the left found Gareth Barry at the far post. He headed into the path of Lescott, who turned and buried his shot from close range before reeling away in delight.
Alex McLeish introduced Charles N'Zogbia soon after going behind, and his team were lifted when the winger injected some much-needed drive to their attacks.
Carlos Cuellar, playing an unfamiliar role at left-back, had City panicked when he met Stiliyan Petrov's corner but planted his header over the bar.
City, defending on their own 18-yard line in the final moments, afforded Villa one final chance in stoppage time. James Collins leapt high to head Petrov's corner to Darren Bent, who did well to readjust his body and shoot from close range - but Hart pulled off a fantastic reaction stop.
Villa had to see out the final moments without captain Dunne, who fell awkwardly on his shoulder under a challenge with Hart, as City ground out a vital, if not pretty, victory.