Yaya Toure scored his 13th league goal of the season to secure a subdued Manchester City a 1-0 win over Stoke at the Etihad Stadium.
Manuel Pellegrini's side struggled to find any of their trademark fluency, but departed the afternoon with three points as Toure converted from Aleksandar Kolarov's cross to settle the match on 70 minutes.
It did not damage the home side's wider aspirations as they remain three points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand. Chelsea overcame Everton 1-0 while Arsenal drubbed Sunderland 4-1 elsewhere on Saturday afternoon.
Stoke were competent and structured, but will perhaps rue not leaving with a point having frustrated a City side who looked slightly leggy after their 2-0 loss to Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.
5' - BEGOVIC TIPS OVER FERNANDINHO SHOT: City settling into the type of possession they couldn't manage against Barcelona the other night. Fernandinho with a powerful shot, but tipped over by Begovic.
8' - ADAM GOES CLOSE: A blistering hit by Adam with his left foot. Plenty of venom in that effort, but ball whistles wide of a post with Hart beaten.
18' - HART DENIES ADAM: Hart with an excellent save to paw the ball wide from the Adam hit at goal. Brilliant stuff from Adam again, but a fine stop.
70' - TOURE FINDS THE FINISH: Toure gives City the lead. Finally the home side have the lead as he flicks the pass from Kolarov through Begovic. 1-0.
73' - DZEKO MISS: An astonishing miss by Dzeko from three yards out. Lovely ball by Navas after Toure had robbed Adam of possession. He hits it with his right foot, but it comes off his left leg. Miss of the season perhaps?
84' - PIETERS WITH A TIMELY TACKLE: Pieters with another fabulous tackle to win the ball from Toure. Looked a certain second as he prepared to pull the trigger.
Stoke have now failed to score in their last six seven flight visits to Man City. Their last goal at Man City in the top flight came in a 1-1 draw in January 1982.
Man City have now won their last seven top-flight home matches against Stoke, and are unbeaten to them at home for eight.
Yaya Toure scored his 13th league goal of the season. He is second on the club's top scorer list behind only Sergio Aguero (15).
Stoke have never won or even scored a goal at Man City in the Premier League, their last top flight goal came on 9 January 1982 (6 matches ago), and their last win there came in September 1980.
Was Dzeko's miss the worst of the season? Could be one of the worst of all-time. His finish seemed to defy logic. It looked impossible to block his finish with the right foot with his left leg, but he somehow pulled it off standing three yards out in front of an open goal. In a match when the home side huffed and puffed, Dzeko's move just about summed up the frustrating nature of the day.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Erik Pieters (Stoke City): Excellent performance by the Dutch defender as the visiting team managed to frustrate City. One block to deny Toure late on was particularly memorable.
Man City: Hart 7, Zabaleta 7, Kompany 6, Demichelis 6, Kolarov 7, Fernandinho 6, Yaya Toure 7, Nasri 6, Silva 6, Dzeko 5, Negredo 5. Subs: Garcia 6, Navas 6, Jovetic 5.
Stoke City: Begovic 6, Pieters 8, Wilson 7, Shawcross 8, Cameron 7, Arnautovic 5, Whelan 7, Adam 7, Odemwingie 6, Walters 6, Crouch 6. Subs: Palacios 6, Etherington 6, Ireland 6.
THE MATCH IN A TWEET