Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola warned Premier League leaders Liverpool that they will not be shaken off their coat-tails after digging deep to claim a 3-1 win at battling Everton.
The back-to-back champions closed the gap to five points but were made to fight all the way against a side that were booed off their own ground last week following defeat by top-flight new boys Sheffield United.
A Gabriel Jesus opener was cancelled out by Dominic Calvert-Lewin before the break, but City had to wait until the final 20 minutes to secure victory with a Riyad Mahrez free-kick regaining the lead and then Raheem Sterling making sure of the points with an effort that required goal-line technology after striking the underside of the bar and bouncing just over the line.
City boss Pep Guardiola said: "We knew Liverpool won again and the gap was eight points, so big, so we won three points and it’s five in September, with a lot of points to play for.
"We know which team we’re facing [in the title race] right now, they are seven victories in a row, champions of Europe and playing good football, this is our rival and we know we can’t drop too many points because last season they lost just one game."
The visitors looked set to pile on the misery for the Toffees' after back of consecutive league defeats when Gabriel Jesus stooped to head home a Kevin De Bruyne cross on the quarter hour. By then Everton had already enjoyed a huge slice of luck when Ilkay Gundogan's close range shot somehow struck the bar when it looked easier to score.
Credit to Marco Silva's outfit for showing plenty of resilience and they were rewarded when Seamus Coleman burrowed into the box and from a tight angle dinked the ball over Ederson with Calvert-Lewin making sure with a diving header on the line.
City should have restored the lead soon after the restart but Sterling hurried his shot wide of the advancing Jordan Pickford after an incisive Mahrez threaded pass.
It was the excellent Mahrez who did break the deadlock with a 25-yard free kick that nestled low in the far corner with 19 minutes remaining.
Sterling made amends for earlier misses in the dying minutes after substitute Sergio Aguero's drilled effort had been blocked by Pickford.
Everton boss Marco Silva was defiant in defeat after a stoic performance that despite four defeats in five outings promises better times ahead.
The Portuguese said: "It was a good game, a competitive game. We didn't get the points but there were lots of positives."
By Russell Stoddart
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