David Silva was the hero for Manchester City as they beat Fulham 2-0 at the Eithad Stadium to close the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United to four points.
The mercurial Spaniard scored after only two minutes to set City on their way before clinching the points with a delightful finish in the 69th.
Silva should have completed his hat-trick just a minute later but dragged an effort wide but he was still the outstanding performer on what was for long periods a relatively uninspiring day by the champions.
City will now look for a favour from Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, when the North London side host leaders United at White Hart Lane.
At the other end of the table, the defeat drops Fulham to 14th and they remain just six points off the relegation zone.
Despite Sergio Aguero (injury) and Samir Nasri (ban) both returning to the City squad, Roberto Mancini decided to stick with the side that won at Arsenal last weekend.
They won that game comfortably and enjoyed a superb start to this game too as Silva smartly dispatched into the corner of the net after Mark Schwarzer could only parry a stinging drive from Edin Dzeko.
That goal came with less than two minutes gone, and it was a cheap goal for Fulham to concede with Giorgos Karagounis' sloppy pass allowing City to attack.
You might have expected City to push on after that but instead both their players and supporters seemed to fall flat allowing Fulham to gradually edge their way back into the match.
The rest of the half was virtually devoid of drama but it was Fulham who came closest to getting on the scoresheet as Damien Duff stood up a superb ball to the back post, but, under pressure from Pablo Zabaleta, Steve Sidwell could not steer a clear header on target as his effort clipped the outside of the post.
It was sluggish from City in the early stages of the second half too and they suffered a blow in the 63rd minute when Pablo Zabaleta was forced off after failing to shake off an ankle injury sustained when he came off worse after a 50-50 ball with Brede Hangeland.
Fulham also lost a man to injury too, Kieran Richardson departing with a calf issue in the 65th minute.
City's urgency was gradually increasing as the second-half settle down and then Silva clinched the match with a delightful second goal.
Nasri, who came on for Zabaleta, played the ball from the left inside to Carlos Tevez, and the Argentine then produced a gem of a flick that allowed the onrushing Silva to run into the box and chip over Schwarzer from a tough angle.
After that, the chances finally started to come thick and fast for City, and Silva was put clean through just a minute after his second but dragged an effort wide when he looked set for a hat-trick.
City were rampant for the rest of the game though, helped by an encouraging cameo from Aguero who came on for Tevez with nine minutes to go.
He had a couple of chances, as did Dzeko who missed a sitter in stoppage time, but none mattered as City ultimately ran out comfortable winners.
There was even time for David Silva to enjoy a standing ovation two minutes from the end as he came on for Joleon Lescott, as City milked the final moments against a Fulham side that threw in the towel after the second goal.
MAN OF THE MATCH
David Silva (Manchester City) - The little Spaniard buzzed around and oozed class as always but his two goals is what helped him stand out.
Manchester City: Hart 6, Zabaleta 7, Kompany 7, Nastasic 8, Clichy 7; Garcia 6, Barry 7, Milner 6; Tevez 7, Silva 9, Dzeko 6. Subs: Nasri 6, Aguero 7, Lescott N/A
Fulham: Schwarzer 6; Riether 6, Hughes 6, Hangeland 6, Richardson 5; Duff 6, Sidwell 6, Karagounis 5, Dejagah 6, Ruiz 6; Berbatov 6. Subs: Briggs 6, Petric 5
- Sports & Recreation