Samir Nasri celebrated his first start for almost seven months with the winning goal as Manchester City came from behind to beat West Brom 2-1.
The Frenchman, fit again after a lengthy lay-off following thigh surgery, pounced from close range as City interrupted their Champions League quarter-final double-header against Paris Saint-Germain to claim three crucial Barclays Premier League points.
Stephane Sessegnon had fired the Baggies into a sixth-minute lead ith a stunning strike at the Etihad Stadium but the same player then conceded the penalty that allowed Sergio Aguero to equalise.
Aguero limped through the latter stages after a challenge from Craig Gardner but remained a willing runner until being taken off in the 89th minute.
His fitness could be a concern for Tuesday’s visit from PSG, which also influenced selection to the extent of five changes to the starting line-up.
Side issues saw fans continue to protest about the price of tickets for Tuesday and Wilfried Bony again struggle up front, but City tightened their grip on fourth place and Nasri finally had something to cheer after a horrendous season.
City were caught out early as the visitors broke from deep to snatch the lead. Fernando – as in Paris in midweek – lost possession and Nasri could not recover as referee Michael Jones blocked his path.
West Brom swept the ball upfield and James McClean whipped in a superb cross which Sessegnon controlled before lashing a fierce strike just inside a static Joe Hart’s near post.
It was a fine effort but Sessegnon’s joy was soon tempered as he conceded the penalty that allowed City to level just 13 minutes later.
The former Sunderland man slightly mistimed his challenge as Aleksandar Kolarov breezed into the area and was adjudged to have tripped the Serbian. Aguero made no mistake from the spot as he marked his 200th City appearance with his 23rd goal of the season.
It proved a bad few minutes for West Brom as they lost Salomon Rondon to injury moments later and Kolarov went close to a second City goal.
Rondon’s replacement Gardner dragged a shot wide and fired a free-kick into the wall but the game lacked intensity.
The hosts retained control but struggled to find top gear and in Bony they had a striker who was clearly out of sorts. Little the Ivorian attempted came off and his contributions gave the side little impetus.
Believing this merely to be the latest in a series of ineffectual displays, the crowd were on his back and it came as no surprise when he was removed on the hour.
Kevin De Bruyne came on in a double substitution that also saw the fit-again Yaya Toure replace Fabian Delph.
Almost immediately City seemed more dynamic and they claimed the lead after 66 minutes after good work from De Bruyne and Jesus Navas, who fed Aguero for a shot that was well blocked by Craig Dawson.
West Brom scrambled to deny Aguero a second opportunity but succeeded only in finding Nasri who could not miss from six yards. He celebrated jubilantly and made a point of acknowledging the medical staff.
West Brom rallied in the latter stages and twice went close through Saido Berahino before McClean shot narrowly wide in injury time. City breathed a sigh of relief, but thoughts might quickly turn to Tuesday and Aguero’s fitness.