Edin Dzeko has made it clear that, in no circumstances, does a player with his strike rate and background want to be regarded as a supersub but he continues to fill the role with distinction. Once again he came off the bench to score a late, decisive winner. It was his seventh goal of the season, half a dozen of them coming as a substitute, and it moved Manchester City back to within two points of Manchester United at the top of the table.

Dzeko is making such a habit of this routine there was almost an air of inevitability when David Silva clipped a lovely little up-and-under into his path 88 minutes into a match that had threatened to ambush an unbeaten record at this ground stretching nearly two years.

The Bosnian, a 73rd-minute replacement for Carlos Tevez, shielded the ball, waited for the bounce and then hooked a left-foot shot into the roof of the net. It was the fifth time he has scored in the league as a substitute and, all in, those goals have helped add nine points. Dzeko may not like starting on the bench but his determination to drive home his point makes him a formidable weapon at a time when Roberto Mancini's team are winning games with much less panache than at this stage last season.

This one felt particularly valuable given the message it delivered on the back of United turning a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win at Aston Villa on Saturday. This was a demonstration of City's own powers of recovery. Sir Alex Ferguson likes to boast there is no other team with United's knack of escaping. Well, City have pushed them close over the last couple of years. This season alone they have recovered from losing positions in five separate matches.

They had flirted heavily with the idea of losing their home record, a sequence of league results stretching back 35 games, and looked short of ideas and confidence after a lapse from Joe Hart allowed Steven Caulker's 21st-minute header to squirm through his grasp. It was a soft goal, coming straight from Tom Huddlestone's free-kick and mirroring the difficulties defending set pieces that have formed a part of their Champions League ordeal.

Tottenham had realistic aspirations at that point of completing their first away double against the Manchester clubs since the 1959-60 season but this was a strangely subdued performance from André Villas-Boas's team, a long way removed from their victory at Old Trafford.

Gareth Bale had a rare off-day and the lack of penetration in attack called into question Villas-Boas's decision to drop Jermain Defoe so Emmanuel Adebayor could start against his former club. It was unusual to see a Spurs side with so little commitment to attack, Adebayor spending most of the match trying to win free-kicks, and they missed a trick really when City, undoubtedly, were below their best for three-quarters of this match.

The home side had toiled with little effect for long spells, with key performers such as Sergio Agüero, Tevez and Yaya Touré below their best. They did, however, have two legitimate penalty appeals in the opening half, for William Gallas's handball and then Huddlestone's body-check on Pablo Zabaleta, and, on the balance of play, they deserved the win even if there is still the sense that not everything is clicking just yet.

Agüero was a case in a point, short of the exhilarating peaks he reached last season. A player of this enduring quality, however, can always have an effect. Midway through the second half, Silva's forward pass was intended for Touré, the ball flicked off Kyle Walker and was diverted into Agüero's path. The Argentinian was on it in a flash, sliding a precise left-foot shot past Brad Friedel.

Until then, the crowd's frustration had mostly been directed at the referee, Michael Oliver. Mancini continues to receive almost unequivocal support from the City crowd and, ultimately, it was an outstanding day for the manager personally.

After 56 minutes, with the score 1-0, Mancini brought on Maicon for Matija Nastasic and reconfigured his team to the 3-5-2 wing-back system that he has started dabbling with this season. This, remember, is the system that has been widely damned, not least within City's own dressing room. The improvement this time was almost immediate and Villas-Boas identified this as the game's critical moment. It was an admission, in short, that the home manager had outwitted him tactically.

Mancini had also left Mario Balotelli out of his squad, and who can really blame him? The manager had a far more reliable striker to use from the bench and Dzeko, once again, did not let him down.

Man of the match David Silva (Manchester City)