A rare Micah Richards goal proved enough for Manchester City to overcome 10-man Sunderland 1-0 at Eastlands.
The Black Cats were left to battle on without George McCartney after just 15 minutes when he was sent off for a professional foul on Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Robinho missed a penalty not long afterwards and City were still struggling for the breakthrough when Richards steered home Elano's free-kick 12 minutes after the break.
The returning Valeri Bojinov made a pleasing contribution for Manchester City in an open encounter before the whole dynamic of the game was changed in a mad three-minute spell as the quarter of an hour mark was reached.
Wright-Phillips had definitely got in front of McCartney in the chase to reach Elano's through ball before being pulled back. Referee Steve Tanner felt it was enough to merit a foul. It took assistant Mo Matadar to confirm the need for a red card.
Although Bojinov curled the free-kick over, City were presented with an even better opportunity to exploit their extra man on their next attack when Steed Malbranque upended Micah Richards, who had burst forward on the overlap.
However, Robinho's penalty was weak and Fulop made the easiest of saves.
Opportunities created for Wright-Phillips and Elano were both squandered - the former woefully, the latter agonisingly as a delicate flick rolled wide - so it was just as well Richards had found the net himself, rising to guide Elano's free-kick over the line just before Robinho could prod home.
It was his first goal for two-and-a-half seasons and only the third of his career.
Unfortunately for Richards, his day ended early as he limped off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
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