Manchester City returned to winning ways with a frantic 1-0 Premier League victory against Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium.
David Silva scrambled in the only goal on 53 minutes in a match of intense physicality and end-to-end football.
Roberto Mancini’s men bounced back from Monday’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea, and returned to the top of the table ahead of Manchester United, who had moved briefly to the summit with victory over QPR in the lunchtime kick-off.
Mancini made three changes from the team that lost at Chelsea, restoring Micah Richards after injury and bringing in ex-Arsenal duo Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri.
For their part, Arsenal lined up with four centre-backs across the defence – Johan Djourou, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen.
Another centre-back, rookie Ignasi Miquel, replaced the injured Djourou early in the second half for an Arsenal side who can take great heart – but no points – from their performance.
City made a strong start and should have gone in front on nine minutes. Pablo Zabaleta crossed for Sergio Aguero, who controlled superbly but blazed over when it looked like the hard work was done.
David Silva then turned adroitly in the box before hitting a shot that Wojciech Szczesny held.
Having weathered the early storm, Arsenal came back through Gervinho, whose powerful low shot was just saved by Joe Hart, who tipped it behind for a corner when the ball looked like it might sneak under his body.
Aaron Ramsey also came close for the visitors, meeting a corner played to the Welshman at the edge of the box and Hart tipped his shot behind.
Back roared City, and Mario Balotelli, who produced a sublime piece of skill to control a high ball and spin towards goal in one movement, but Scszesny did superbly to hold the shot.
Szecesny was called into impressive action again five minutes before half-time when Aguero exchanged passes with Silva, made a diagonal run into the box and shot low towards goal.
The second half was arguably played at an even higher tempo, and after eight minutes Silva broke the deadlock.
Balotelli smashed a low shot from a tight angle, Szczesny parried and the ball bobbled to Silva who finished from close range.
Theo Walcott responded for Arsenal with a long shot that Hart tipped over, before Robin van Persie had a chip rightly ruled out for offside.
The prolific Dutchman should have done better on 64 minutes when Gervinho teed him up, but he made unusually poor contact with his shot and Hart saved.
At the other end, Nasri should have laid on a second goal for Balotelli as City romped through, but the Frenchman overhit a pass that would have presented his team-mate with an open goal.
Pablo Zabaleta than crashed a shot against the left-hand post with Szczesny reduced to a spectator, while Aguero forced a further save from the Pole.
As Arsenal chased the game, substitute Andrei Arshavin passed up a great chance when set up by Van Persie; dragging his shot awkwardly wide.
Vermaelen then had two powerful blasts in stoppage time. Hart tipped the first over, while the second whipped inches wide.
City held on, and go into the festive period top of the table.