Sergio Aguero's masterclass helped Manchester City to a 4-1 Barclays Premier League victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
The striker scored twice to take his goal tally to 13 for the season as City claimed all three points to remain second in the table.
It looked like City may be in for a tricky evening against a team they had not beaten in their previous four league meetings when Connor Wickham fortuitously put Sunderland ahead. But Aguero had other ideas and, having rocketed home a brilliant solo goal, turned provider for Stevan Jovetic to make it 2-1 six minutes before half time.
Unable to repeat the defending that earned a goalless draw against Chelsea on Saturday, Sunderland were pegged back further as Pablo Zabaleta added a third goal not long after the interval.
And Aguero was back on centre stage in the 71st minute, converting coolly to wrap up a comfortable night's work for City.
City went into the game under a cloud of defensive issues with skipper Vincent Kompany injured and Eliaquim Mangala suspended after his dismissal in Sunday's 3-0 win over Southampton.
Sensing a chance to attack the unfamiliar centre-back pairing of Martin Demichelis and Dedryck Boyata, Sunderland began the game impressively and could have taken the lead after just seven minutes. The chance fell to Jack Rodwell when he was been picked out by Will Buckley, but the former City midfielder struck his effort straight into former Zabaleta with the goal gaping.
The miss did not prove too costly as Wickham's goal, which had a hint of good fortune about it, put the home side ahead. Wickham played a superb one-two with Sebastian Larsson, before Zabaleta's sliding tackle ricocheted off his foot and into the corner.
City found an immediate riposte through the brilliance of Aguero, though. The Argentinia striker picked the ball up 20 yards from goal, nutmegged Sebastian Coates and powered an unstoppable shot beyond former City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.
Aguero was not done there, however, and produced another world-class intervention in the 39th minute, brilliantly flicking Yaya Toure's fizzing pass sideways to Jovetic who powered a strike through the legs of Pantilimon.
Sunderland emerged from the break with confidence, epitomised by Larsson immediately stinging the hands of Joe Hart.
Yet City snuffed out their hopes of a comeback with a beautifully worked goal. Toure sent the ball forward to Zabaleta, who played a lovely one-two with Samir Nasri and chipped over Pantilimon in a manner that would have made his countryman Aguero proud.
Further gloss was added to the scoreline, Aguero making a superb run and expertly turning James Milner's cross in off the inside of the post.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet: "We started the game very well but we gave too many options to City to attack.
"We didn't have the time to improve technically after taking the lead because they equalised so soon with a superb goal.
"When you have players like Aguero, they can do something from nothing."
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "Sergio is only 26 and he can improve every day. At the moment we are seeing very high performances from him. Not only is he scoring but he's playing well as well.
"The team is coming again in their performances and all the players are having more trust in what we are doing, but we must continue the same way."
|13 Dec 2014||v West Ham (H)|
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|21 Dec 2014||v Newcastle (A)|
|26 Dec 2014||v Hull (H)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Aston Villa (A)|
|01 Jan 2015||v Man City (A)|