|Lescott fires City into the lead and back to the top of English Premier League [GALLO/GETTY]
Manchester City kept fierce rivals Manchester United at arm's length in the Premier League title race on Sunday, with a slender 1-0 victory over Aston Villa to maintain their two-point lead.
England center back Joleon Lescott grabbed the winner in the 63rd minute, hooking in a shot from close range after Gareth Barry nodded down a deep corner from James Milner.
Regaining the title initiative after United beat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday, City have 13 matches to hold out if the club is to win the English league for the first time since 1968.
"We have been there (at the top) since August because we deserved it"
City manager Roberto Mancini
"We have been there (at the top) since August because we deserved it,'' City manager Roberto Mancini said.
"It was a difficult game. We knew this before the game but the guys played fantastic football.''
City could be given an unexpected boost in the title race following reports in the British media that Carlos Tevez is set to end his unauthorised stay in his native Argentina, where he has been since November.
Mancini gave little away regarding the potential return of his top scorer last season, saying: "Carlos knows the situation, we are here and it depends on him.''
In the day's other match, Wolverhampton Wanderers dropped into the relegation zone after losing 5-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion.
Nigeria striker Peter Odemwingie scored a hat-trick for the visitors, who climbed above Villa into 14th place - eight points clear of the bottom three.
Hart of defence
City went into the game having won only once on their travels since November - against last-place Wigan on January 16 - and it looked at one stage that it would be another of those away games where the leaders dominated possession without finding a cutting edge.
Winger Adam Johnson struck a left-foot shot from 20 meters against the post in the 27th minute and Argentina forward Sergio Aguero also went close in a first half City dominated.
Lescott then put City ahead but the visitors required a reaction save from goalkeeper Joe Hart to seal the victory.
The England goalkeeper kept out a close-range effort by international teammate Darren Bent, minutes after Villa defender Carlos Cuellar headed over when free at a corner.
The loss means Villa are winless at home since November 5 and increased the pressure on manager Alex McLeish, who was the subject of a low-key planned protest before kickoff.
| Odemwingie (R) scored a hat-trick during a great West Brom performance [GALLO/GETTY]
"The Villa fans stayed right behind us for the entire game and I thought we were very unlucky not to get anything,'' McLeish said.
"Our home record is pretty abysmal. I'm disappointed with that because I pride myself in my managerial career with home performances and the current one isn't good enough.''
It was a disappointing way for Robbie Keane to finish his loan spell at Villa before the Ireland captain returns to MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy.
Wolves replaced Blackburn in the bottom three after their drubbing at the hands of central English rival West Brom at Molineux.
The teams were level at 1-1 with 26 minutes left before Odemwingie scored twice to complete his first Premier League hat-trick, with Jonas Olsson and Keith Andrews also netting.
"The saddest part is that we capitulated, which I have never seen my team do - not really,'' Wolves manager Mick McCarthy said.
"That's not us. I have never apologised for a performance but would do for that as I know what it means to everybody.''
Steven Fletcher's 10th goal of the season, on the stroke of halftime, had cancelled out Odemwingie's opener in the 34th.
"I hope we can change our home performances and then there's nothing that can stop us finishing in the top 10,'' Odemwingie said