Manchester City overcame a resilient Bournemouth side to move five points clear of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table.
With their closest title rivals not playing until Sunday afternoon, the hosts knew that they had the perfect opportunity to load pressure on the Merseyside club. And they succeeded, but not without struggle.
Everything was going swimmingly for Pep Guardiola’s men when Bernardo Silva, returning to the match day squad after injury, smashed the Citizens ahead on the quarter hour mark when he tucked away the rebound after Asmir Begovic denied Leroy Sané.
But City, who were without top scorer Sergio Agüero after the Argentine complained of muscle discomfort, became complacent before half-time and were deservedly punished.
To the home fans’ dismay, City allowed the Cherries far too much time and space outside the box and Simon Francis delivered the perfect cross for an in-form Callum Wilson to rise high and head home.
After the break, Bournemouth threatened again when Josh King’s looping cross almost dropped beyond Ederson at the far post, while Guardiola’s side looked surprisingly short of urgency and quality.
But, if you don’t take your chances, City will punish you. And that’s exactly when happened.
As the champions looked for a spark to re-ignite their performance, Raheem Sterling provided the moment of class they were missing, continuing his remarkable run of scoring against the Cherries.
The England international was sharp to follow in after Begovic could only parry Danilo’s low shot and, as Nathan Ake failed to clear, the winger fired his shot into the roof of the net for his 10th goal in seven games against the Cherries.
Sterling is now the first player in Premier League history to score in six successive appearances against the same club.
City are the only Premier League team this season not to have dropped any points this season from winning positions, but that scenario looked a distinct possibility until Sterling struck.
Bournemouth, looking to avoid a fourth straight loss, refused lie down and their determined attacking play ensured more nervous moments for the Etihad faithful.
But Ilkay Gündogan’s close-range finish made sure of the points with 11 minutes remaining, the impressive Sané providing another assist with a precise pull-back.
City’s victory maintains their 100% home record in the league this season, with eight wins out of eight, but this latest triumph was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggests.