|Dzeko ended an 11-match scoring drought to put City back in charge [GETTY]
Edin Dzeko's first goal for two months earned Manchester City a hard-fought 1-0 win at Wigan on Monday which sent Roberto Mancini's side three points clear at top of the English Premier League.
The Bosnian's sublime 22nd minute header proved enough to sink the bottom club after Ali Al Habsi had threatened to frustrate the leaders.
Wigan keeper Al Habsi produced a string of excellent saves both before and after Dzeko had netted his 14th goal for City this season.
David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Dzeko were all denied by the Oman international but City returned to winning ways to pull clear of nearest rivals Manchester United ahead of Sunday's big home game with third-placed Tottenham.
Back to business
Having suffered back-to-back defeats in cup competition, an away game against basement team Wigan provided City with a perfect opportunity to snap out of their winter blues.
The FA Cup elimination at the hands of Manchester United as well as the League Cup first leg home defeat to Liverpool, together with captain Vincent Kompany's four-match suspension, had resulted in a poor start to 2012 for Mancini's expensively-assembled side.
But they found relief at Wigan, whose record against the so-called big four is nothing short of diabolical.
Since winning promotion to the top-flight in 2005, Wigan have lost all 14 league and cup games against Manchester United while they went into this game having failed to score in the last six hours and 45 minutes against City.
Make that eight hours 15 minutes now.
Wigan started brightly with Scottish midfielder James McArthur seeing a third minute shot deflected narrowly wide by James Milner while the hosts were also denied a sixth minute penalty.
Martin Atkinson has sent off six players this season but the referee did not want to know when City's England midfielder Gareth Barry appeared to lean into Jordi Gomez deep inside the visitors penalty area.
But Wigan, like their season, quickly fizzled out and City, captained by Pablo Zabaleta on the Argentinian's 27th birthday, gradually began to take command.
Dzeko and Stefan Savic had already directed headers narrowly wide of the target inside the opening 10 minutes before the home side, who had conceded 11 times in their previous three league games, were undone by a simple set-piece midway through the first half.
Even City's injured Italian international striker Mario Balotelli, who cut a frustrated figure as he watched the action from an executive box, cannot have failed but to be impressed as Dzeko found the net with a superb header after meeting Silva's inch-perfect free-kick.
It was the former Wolfsburg player's first goal in 14 games for club and country yet despite the quality of the finish, it was far too easy for City.
Wigan are now without a win in their last nine home attempts in the league yet they can count themselves fortunate to have escaped a hiding.
Al Habsi produced a flying world-class save to deny Dzeko a second from 12-yards after 55 minutes before the Oman international frustrated Silva moments later.
Then Sergio Aguero went on a sensational mazy run which had Wigan's defence chasing shadows.
But just when the former Atletico Madrid player looked set to walk the ball into the net, Dzeko spoiled it all by taking the ball off his toe and allowed Al Habsi to make an easy save. It was one-way traffic.
When Gael Clichy provided a fine 62nd minute low centre into the Wigan penalty area, Wigan defender Gary Caldwell almost steered the ball into his own net while attempting to clear.
Yet while the game remained 1-0 Wigan had a chance and they almost snatched an unlikely point when James McCarthy went close to a 70th minute equaliser.