Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola praised his players for their patience after coming from behind to beat battling Southampton 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium.
The champions had to dig deep for the victory with second-half goals from Sergio Aguero and Kyle Walker cancelling out an early James Ward-Prowse opener for the Saints.
The visitors had shown a vast improvement in their 3-1 Carabao Cup defeat at the same venue in midweek than they did in the 9-0 trouncing by Leicester at home just a few days earlier, but few gave them a chance of their first league win at the Etihad since 2004.
But for long spells this had the hallmarks of City's home defeat by Wolves last month when the Black Country side weathered an early storm to claim the spoils with two late sucker punches.
On this occasion Southampton threatened to perform a mirror image of the Wolves shock by taking an early lead and holding firm.
Eventually City were able to wear their opponents down with a relentless barrage of attacks but this was a reminder that their prospects of a hat-trick of Premier League titles is under severe threat as they next travel to leaders Liverpool, who remain six points in front at the top of the table.
Guardiola said: "Southampton defended with 11 men in the 18-yard box so there were no spaces to attack.
"We just had to be patient, putting in crosses and trying to win the second balls, but at the same time we were constantly attacking and were very aggressive in our actions.
"It was difficult after we conceded but our rhythm was high from the first minute and we had incredibly good momentum in the first half.
"In the second half we had maybe 30 or 35 minutes where we were so intense in our actions. It was not easy, but that is why we did it and could make the comeback in the end."
City typically started on the front foot but the Saints were to strike first after 12 minutes on a rare break..
Ederson spilled a fierce Stuart Armstrong low drive from 20 yards that reared up on a slippy surface allowing James Ward-Prowse to stab the rebound into the roof of the net for his second goal of the campaign.
The home side laid siege to the Saints goal but with they were lacking the zip and fluency you come to expect.
Guardiola made a change at the break with Gabriel Jesus replacing the limping David Silva but it took a while before the home side's greater attacking threat was rewarded.
Aguero had been a peripheral figure for much of the game but the club record-scorer showed his menace when heading over from six yards.
Saints failed to heed the warning and soon after the Argentinian netted his fifth goal in four games when he lashed home from six yards after connecting with a raking Kyle Walker cross.
With four minutes remaining the England defender added a first goal of the season to his earlier assist sliding in to blast home an Angelino cross after keeper Kevin McCarthy let slip out of his grasp.
By Russell Stoddart
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