Edin Dzeko may not want to be known as a 'super sub' but he lived up to the tag once again with a winner two minutes from time as Manchester City defeated Tottenham 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium.
Sergio Aguero levelled things for City after Steven Caulker profited from a poor piece of goalkeeping to put Spurs in front in the first half yet the game was decided by Dzeko, who was summoned from the bench after 73 minutes.
The Bosnian met a gorgeous pass from David Silva with a clinical finish to give City the lead and, having suffered a damaging draw to Ajax in midweek, the home side held on to move to within two points of league leaders Manchester United. It was Dzeko's seventh goal of the season, and his sixth as a substitute.
Defeat leaves Tottenham in sixth place, three points behind both West Brom and Everton after suffering a third defeat in four games in all competitions.
Andre Villas-Boas took the brave decision to drop Jermain Defoe after the striker scored a hat-trick in Thursday's Europa League win over Maribor as Emmanuel Adebayor made his first league start of the season when leading the Spurs attack.
The change suited the visitors and they coped well against the reigning champions before taking the lead after 21 minutes when City conceded from another set-piece. Indeed, prior to kick-off, no other team had conceded a higher percentage of goals from set-pieces than Roberto Mancini's side.
Tom Huddlestone delivered a fine free kick from the right and Caulker got in between Yaya Toure and Aleksandar Kolarov to power a header down and into the turf. It bounced up nicely for Joe Hart but the keeper was unable to keep the ball out as he made a poor attempt to save.
David Silva, restored to the starting Xi for his first appearance since the start of October, was City's creative spark but a rather uneventful first half was punctuated more by notable fouls and flare-ups than genuine chances.
On 24 minutes, William Gallas was fortunate not to concede a penalty when his outstretched arm blocked the ball as Sergio Aguero tried to touch it around him, though Pablo Zabaleta's appeal for a spot-kick when being knocked to ground by Tom Huddlestone was rather more hopeful.
In fact the Argentine defender was an unexpectedly central figure to proceedings. After 28 minutes he was involved in a heated exchange with former team-mate Adebayor, before the striker deceived the referee just a minute later with a cynical dive to earn the City defender an undeserved booking.
Zabaleta also had City's best chance of the half when collecting a pass from Silva 10 yards from goal. However, the defender got the ball stuck under his feet before digging out a weak effort that Friedel smothered with ease.
Spurs, meanwhile, created little of note after their opening goal but Huddlestone went close when drilling a shot narrowly wide after Adebayor embarked on a superb run from the left wing and laid the ball off to him with a neat back-heel.
City threatened to open Spurs up at the start of the second half when Toure released Aguero with a long ball over the top of the defence but the striker, normally so accomplished when through on goal, slipped at the critical moment as the chance passed the home side by.
However, on 65 minutes he made no such mistake. City got lucky when Caulker's challenge on Toure meant the ball rolled to Aguero to the right of the box, but the striker showed trademark poise to cut onto his left boot and place the ball out of the reach of Friedel.
A game of few chances witnessed the continuation of the Adebayor-Zabaleta feud when the Spurs striker planted his arm into the face of the City defender, earning a booking in the process. However, Adebayor was soon replaced by Defoe as Villas-Boas changed his attack.
City made a change of their own as Dzeko entered the fray with 17 minutes remaining and once again he made the difference. Having already sent one header off target, before Silva drove a shot just wide and Aguero saw a firm effort repelled by Friedel, the striker linked up with the Spaniard to give City the victory.
Dzeko laid the ball off to Silva and then snuck into the box to collect a superb lofted pass from the midfielder and hammer a volley past Friedel after the ball had bounced nicely for him. The Spurs keeper might have done better but it was a goal worthy of winning the game.
MAN OF THE MATCH
David Silva, Manchester City: His glorious pass opened up a stubborn Spurs defence and won the game for his side, but this was a fine return all round from the midfielder, who made his first appearance in a month.
MAN CITY: Hart 5, Zabaleta 8, Kompany 7, Nastasic 6, Clichy 6, Barry 5, Toure 6, Silva 8, Kolarov 6, Tevez 6, Aguero 7. Subs: Maicon 6, Dzeko 8, Garcia N/A.
SPURS: Friedel 5, Walker 6, Gallas 6, Caulker 7, Vertonghen 7, Huddlestone 6, Sandro 7, Lennon 6, Dempsey 5, Bale 6, Adebayor 6. Subs: Dawson 6, Naugton N/A, Defoe 6.