Bernardo Silva's controversial first Premier League goal of the season helped earn Manchester City a hard-fought 2-0 against Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
City will be knocked off the summit later on Wednesday if Manchester United beat Fulham, but the determination they showed to claim their sixth successive league win underlined that they are here to stay in this title race.
Villa's first team, playing their first game since New Year's Day because of a coronavirus outbreak at the club, showed no after-effects of their 19-day hiatus and produced a dogged defensive display.
They held out until the 79th minute, when Rodri controversially stole the ball off Tyrone Mings and fed Bernardo, who brilliantly fired into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Rodri was offside before he returned to an onside position to challenge Mings and Villa manager Dean Smith was sent off for his protests.
Pep Guardiola's side made it 2-0 in stoppage time through Ilkay Gundogan's penalty and the City boss was pleased with his side's overall performance.
"I had the feeling we controlled the game," he said after the match. "The top four players they have, player like Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley, the feeling is that wow, you feel the dangers in every actions.
"We arrived at the byline many times but could not score the goal but Bernando was there and his goal made the difference.
"We struggled against Brighton in the last game - they are one of the best teams for creating chances, so it has been hard for us. Maybe they are not clinical but they are good.
"It was 5-7 minutes where Aston Villa had two or three chances. When they can run with the likes of Ollie Watkins, Grealish, Barkley but we make actions and control the passes."