The defending champion kept the pressure up on Chelsea and it was the former Blues man who came through again.
Frank Lampard again underlined his value to Manchester City with the only goal in a 1-0 Premier League win at bottom club Leicester City.
The veteran former England and Chelsea midfielder has chipped in with vital contributions over the course of his loan from affiliated Major League Soccer outfit New York City FC. Manager Manuel Pellegrini this week stated his wish to keep Lampard beyond the scheduled end of his temporary spell at the end of the month.
Handed a start at the King Power Stadium, Lampard responded in the 40th minute with his sixth Manchester City goal and the 175th of his Premier League career, moving level with Thierry Henry in fourth place on the all-time list.
The title holder, which was forced to hand a maiden senior start to 18-year-old Jose Angel Pozo after Edin Dzeko suffered a calf injury during the warm-up, ground out an important result to record a seventh consecutive victory in all competitions.
City remains three points behind leaders Chelsea, while defeat saw Leicester slip to a ninth loss in an 11-game winless run.
Manchester City welcomed back captain Vincent Kompany and playmaker David Silva from respective hamstring and knee injuries, but Dzeko's injury was a setback.
Worryingly for Pellegrini ahead of the congested Christmas schedule, Kompany also suffered a recurrence of his problem with 14 minutes to play.
The champions' anticipated lack of presence up front meant Leicester was able to confidently launch regular attacks, and goalkeeper Joe Hart was grasping at thin air when Esteban Cambiasso's curling free kick flew narrowly wide.
Ben Hamer made an excellent 32nd-minute save to keep Yaya Toure's shot out of the bottom corner, but he could do nothing five minutes before the break as Lampard deftly turned a shot home from close range, following fine work by Samir Nasri on the left of the Leicester box.
Pellegrini's men absorbed further pressure after the break, before Toure's pass released Nasri, whose 56th-minute cross was sent wide at the near post by Silva.
Referee Jon Moss was unmoved by Leicester penalty claims when Mangala bundled into Vardy at the near post, but the earlier rhythm of Leicester’s attacks was absent by the time Pearson sent on top scorer Leonardo Ulloa.
The former Brighton striker swiveled to shoot in the 80th minute, and Kompany's replacement Martin Demichelis deflected the effort wide with Hart wrong-footed. The same player hooked a bouncing ball over in stoppage time as Manchester City hung on.