Nathan Ake was the unlikely hero as Manchester City edged past Arsenal into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.
The defender popped up with just his second goal of the season, a moment that proved the winner for Pep Guardiola’s charges in a cagey affair between the two best teams in England so far this term.
With just five points separating the sides in the Premier League in what is shaping up to be a fascinating race for the title, their first meeting this campaign never really lived up to its billing.
Despite making six changes, Mikel Arteta’s side created the better opportunities in the opening half, with Leandro Trossard – making his full debut – causing quite a stir down the left flank. He set the tempo as the early as the ninth minute when he pulled a dangerous cross back to Takehiro Tomiyasu, who forced a save from Stefan Ortega.
The Belgian tested the reactions of City’s deputy goalkeeper before setting up Eddie Nketiah whose first-time near-post finish was wide of target.
City made a slow start to proceedings by their standards but could have gone ahead when Kevin De Bryune’s curler drifted agonisingly wide.
The hosts lost John Stones to injury before half-time but after the restart, in the 64th-minute, his defensive team-mate Ake provided the opener with a side-footed effort after Jack Grealish kept an attack alive following Julian Alvarez's shot against the post.
And while Arsenal - who brought on captain Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli - made a positive response to falling behind, they failed to create a clear-cut opportunity as City inflicted just a fourth defeat of the season on the North London side.