Phil Foden scored the only goal as Manchester City edged a drab affair with Brighton 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
Raheem Sterling came on late, only to miss a penalty, as City recorded a seventh-straight league win to pile pressure on both Manchester United and Liverpool.
Despite the gulf in both class and form hugely favouring the hosts, Brighton gave a good account of themselves from the start. They stayed defensively strong, while Premier League debutant Percy Tau, Alexis Mac Allister and Leandro Trossard threatened in attack.
It was City, though, who dominated the ball and created the better chances. Kevin De Bruyne was pulling the strings, and forced Robert Sanchez into two good saves either side of seeing an indirect free kick, thanks to an Adam Webster backpass, get blocked by Mac Allister.
Riyad Mahrez was busy on the right-hand side, but City's frustration was growing as half time approached. That was until the final minute of normal time, when De Bruyne fed Foden, allowing the Englishman to place his eighth goal of the season past Sanchez at the near post.
But that goal didn't release the handbrake properly; Mahrez spurned a great opportunity just shy of the hour, before Ilkay Gundogan had a shot blocked and Bernardo Silva struck the post. Brighton weathered that mini storm, before Sanchez denied both Joao Cancelo and De Bruyne again.
Substitute Neal Maupay squandered the chance of an equaliser with 13 minutes remaining when he failed to lob Ederson, who was compromised after a Trossard through ball. John Stones cleared the danger, as City summoned Sterling.
He failed to wrap up the points from the penalty spot in stoppage time after Sanchez brought down De Bruyne. His effort skied over the bar, but City held on to go third in the Premier League.
Joao Cancelo of Manchester City and John Stones of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Brighton & Hove Albion at Etihad Stadium
Image credit: Getty Images
TALKING POINT - City show enough to down brave Seagulls
It wasn't vintage, especially given the fact that Pep Guardiola's side had scored 15 goals and conceded just two in their last six games, but they did enough to get over the line. City are badly missing Sergio Aguero up front and it showed again; they struggle to step through the gears without a focal point. Brighton huffed and puffed, but again have nothing to show for it.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
No player was outstanding, but De Bruyne was still the pick of the bunch. He saw chances go begging in either half, thwarted by an impressive Sanchez in the Brighton goal, set up the winner and won the penalty. He was constantly involved and the difference in the end.
Manchester City: Ederson 6, Zinchenko 6, Dias 7, Stones 7, Cancelo 7, Gundogan 6, Rodri 5, De Bruynen 8, Foden 7, Mahrez 7, Silva 6 Substitutes: Jesus 6, Sterling 4
Brighton: Sanchez 7, Burn 6, Dunk 6, Webster 6, Bernardo 6, Propper 5, White 6, Veltman 5, Mac Allister 6, Tau 6, Trossard 7 Substitutes: Maupay 5, March 5, Khadra n/a
44' - GOAL! What a lovely strike by Foden. He cushions it into the near post after being found by De Bruyne. Cruel on Brighton, 1-0 City.
59' - POST! Silva smacks the woodwork after Gundogan sees an effort blocked. Suddenly, Brighton are hanging on.
77' CHANCE! Maupay could have chipped Ederson after a brilliant Trossard pass, but Stones got there ahead of him.
90' + 2 - PENALTY MISS! Sterling blazes the penalty over the bar after De Bruyne was brought down by Sanchez
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Brighton have now lost all six Premier League meetings with Manchester City by an aggregate score of 20-2.