Sergio Aguero scored the only goal to ensure Manchester City were victorious in their first game since Manuel Pellegrini announced his impending departure, beating Sunderland 1-0 at the Stadium of Light.
Aguero found the back of the net for the 12th time in his last 10 Barclays Premier League appearances to claim three valuable points, one day after City announced Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola would replace Pellegrini from next season.
The Argentina striker - joined in attack by Kelechi Iheanacho, who earned a league start following his FA Cup hat-trick at Aston Villa - opened the scoring with 16 minutes played, showing great composure to fire beyond Vito Mannone after Jesus Navas' low delivery ricocheted to him at the back post.
Second-bottom Sunderland responded positively and came close to an equaliser before the interval, but Joe Hart marked his 253rd Premier League appearance for City - a club record alongside Richard Dunne - by denying Jermain Defoe, while Billy Jones hit the post on the rebound.
The action dried up after the interval as the match became increasingly physical, until a frantic finish which saw City hold firm amid a Sunderland onslaught.
Pellegrini's side remain three points adrift of leaders Leicester City - 2-0 winners against Liverpool - who they face in a huge clash at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Lamine Kone replaced Wes Brown in the centre of defence and his Sunderland debut almost got off to a terrible start in the fourth minute when he diverted Gael Clichy's cross towards his own goal, but Mannone collected at the near post.
City continued to apply early pressure with slick passing, Aguero shifting away from John O'Shea and sending a swerving 25-yard drive wide.
Aguero made no mistake with his next opportunity when he stabbed Navas' deflected cross beyond Mannone, though he was caught on the calf by Jones in the process.
The goalscorer shook off his knock and returned to the forefront of City's attack but, despite Yaya Toure dictating play from midfield, Sunderland became more adventurous.
Kone narrowly missed out marking his first appearance with a goal when he steered a free header from Jeremain Lens' free-kick wide and Hart was in superb form when called upon on the stroke of half-time.
The City goalkeeper got a hand to Defoe's effort after the striker turned Nicolas Otamendi in the box, before quickly recovering to apply pressure on Jones, whose follow-up from an acute angle cannoned back off the upright.
Pellegrini replaced Iheanacho with Fernando for the second half in a bid to sure up his midfield, while Sam Allardyce introduced Wahbi Khazri for his Premier League bow.
Hart then produced a great save to deny Jones from 20 yards, while Dame N'Doye's stoppage-time header was cleared off the line by Otamendi after the City goalkeeper failed to claim Khazri's corner.
Sunderland's bid for an equaliser was ultimately fruitless though, leaving them four points adrift of safety with City keeping pace in the race for top spot.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce: "We missed too many chances today and when you play a Manchester City side and have better chances than them, it shows the level of our performance.
"There's no result for us, the points aren't there, but the positives are. While this performance was the best since I've been here, we're in big trouble now when you look at the other results tonight.
"It was a testament to our performance that they pulled off a striker at half-time and sent on a midfielder. Our debutants made some good contributions. I thought Jan Kirchoff was outstanding in midfield."
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "It was a tough game. This is a team who are fighting relegation.
"They will play every game like a final. It is not our style to play with nine defenders but it was our third game in a week and it was impossible to have a high pace with all our injuries.
"It was better to defend well and concentrate.It is an important three points and now we have to play Leicester at home and they are still the leaders."