Carlos Tevez ensured Manchester City's flickering Premier League title defense stayed alive another week by scoring in a 1-0 win at relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Monday.
Man City substitute Edin Dzeko dispossessed center back Ciaran Clark in a contentious challenge in first-half stoppage time, dribbled toward the box before finding Tevez, who dummied to fool goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender Nathan Baker before slotting the ball into the net at Villa Park.
Clark complained he had been fouled by Dzeko, but referee Mike Rile ignored the protests to award the goal.
''I don't think it was a foul,'' Villa manager Paul Lambert said. ''I know what Ciaran was trying to do. You don't take a chance like that - you can't make that mistake. ''He's a young lad and he will come back stronger. He's been great over the season, at a really high standard, and he will learn.''
City stayed 12 points behind leader Manchester United in second place with 10 rounds left. Roberto Mancini's team is also five points clear of third-place Tottenham.
''We did a good performance and it was difficult,'' Mancini said. ''For us it was important to stay 12 behind United, with 10 games left you never say never. Keep on winning and you never know - this is football.
''We are playing well and didn't concede a lot of chances. For me, Aston Villa are a good team and it is strange they're at the bottom.''
Villa has now lost seven home matches this season, winning only once in the past 11 games to remain 18th and in the drop zone because of an inferior goal difference. Upcoming matches against rival relegation candidates Reading and QPR will go a long way to deciding Villa's fate.
Tevez came into the starting line-up in the only change from the team that beat Chelsea 2-0 last round after the fellow Argentina striker Sergio Aguero injured his knee at training.
Villa manager Paul Lambert kept faith with the team that performed well in the 2-1 loss at Arsenal, ensuring defender Ron Vlaar stayed on the sidelines because of a calf injury.
City started sluggishly, but before long Tevez was a constant threat to the Villa defense with his skill and energy while James Milner posed problems down the flank against his former club.
City was indebted to Tevez for clearing a header from Christian Benteke off the line from a corner in the 22nd minute. The Belgium forward caused plenty of problems, while Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor were lively.
City started to take control as the first half drew to a close, with Guzan palming a curling drive from Pablo Zabaleta onto a post, and the second period started in a similar vein with Dzeko's volley deflecting wide of the post.
Villa upped the tempo in the final minutes but City's defense held firm.