Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane were on target as Manchester City won 2-0 at Sunderland to keep their title ambitions alive and push the Wearsiders closer to the relegation trapdoor.
Argentina international Aguero tapped home from close range in the closing stages of a first half bossed by the hosts, before former Schalke star Sane made it two after the break.
It is now four Premier League wins on the bounce for City to move them eight points behind leaders Chelsea, who visit West Ham on Monday.
The situation at the other end of the table is starting to look bleak for David Moyes' men, however, with Sunderland now six points from safety with 11 games remaining.
They can, at least, take encouragement from a battling display which was ultimately undone by City's superior individual class.
Sunderland made an encouraging start and they came close to grabbing a surprise lead through Jermain Defoe in the 20th minute, the experienced forward hitting the upright with a fine shot from outside the area, before Fabio Borini headed wide from the rebound.
The hosts had another chance to break the deadlock 10 minutes before half-time when Adnan Januzaj’s corner picked out Billy Jones but the right-back aimed his header straight at goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
4 – Sergio Aguero has scored in each of his last four games in all competitions at the Stadium of Light (five goals). Thorn. — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 5, 2017
City had offered little going forward – David Silva just failing to connect with Sane’s drilled cross the best of their few opportunities – but they still went into half time 1-0 up. Silva set up Raheem Sterling down the right and his deflected cross fell perfectly for Aguero to stab past Jordan Pickford at his near post.
Pep Guardiola's side could have doubled their lead early in the second half after an intricate team move involving Yaya Toure, Sterling and Silva, with the latter eventually forcing Pickford into a strong save with a powerful shot from inside the box.
But there was no denying City minutes later when Silva sent Sane clean through on goal with an intelligent pass, the winger taking a touch to take it around Jones before blasting a low shot past Pickford and into the corner.
Sunderland refused to throw in the towel and Januzaj could have pulled one back but headed just wide following Bryan Oviedo's cross.
Defoe had a late header correctly ruled out for offside while Aguero was denied his second by a stunning Pickford stop.