David Silva provided a masterclass as he heads towards his Premier League swansong in Manchester City's 2-1 win over Bournemouth, which edged the plucky Cherries closer to Premier League relegation.
Silva fired a sixth-minute free-kick in off the bar to leave Aaron Ramsdale with no chance of keeping out a superb opener, before feeding Gabriel Jesus, on his 100th Premier League appearance, to double City's advantage with a lovely turn and finish shortly before half-time (39).
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But the hosts were made to work for their win by a resurgent Bournemouth, who came close to equalising before Jesus' goal when Junior Stanislas' excellent set piece of his own was tipped onto the post by Ederson, before Josh King's second-half finish, turning in Stanislas' initial effort, was ruled offside by inches following a VAR review.
The often-maligned video assistant made another fine intervention to overturn Lee Mason's decision to award a penalty against Steve Cook's challenge on Jesus, with replays showing the Bournemouth defender had touched the ball before catching the Manchester City striker.
Manchester City: Ederson (7), Walker (5), Stones (5), Otamendi (5), Mendy (4), David Silva (8), Gundogan (6), Fernandinho (7), Bernardo Silva (6), Jesus (7), Foden (6).
Subs: Sterling (6), Garcia (4), Rodri (6), Zinchenko (5), Mahrez (5).
Away Team: Ramsdale (6), Stacey (7), Kelly (6), Steve Cook (6), Rico (6), King (7), Billing (7), Lerma (7), Gosling (6), Stanislas (7), Solanke (6).
Subs: Callum Wilson (7), Brooks (7), Lewis Cook (6), Harry Wilson (6), Surridge (n/a).
Man of the match: David Silva.
The Cherries finally got the goal their fine performance deserved with two minutes to go as substitute David Brooks turned in Callum Wilson's square on the break, but despite piling on the pressure and ending with an xG of 1.75 compared to the hosts' 0.63, Bournemouth remained 18th - three points adrift of the teams above them, who all have a game in hand - with only two matches left to save their season.
Cherries upstage City on pitch - but leave empty-handed
Pep Guardiola insisted his decision to make six changes from City's 5-0 win over Brighton was not a nod to their upcoming FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal, but the line-up he put out certainly did not get anywhere near the same standards.
It looked like it would be plain sailing against lowly Bournemouth as David Silva curled in an inch-perfect free-kick early on from 20 yards, rattling the crossbar on its way past Ramsdale's helpless dive, but Bournemouth, who have finally come alive in recent games, quickly showed they are not down yet.
King flashed a shot wide on the turn after being given time in the box by John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, with the latter soon indebted to Ederson after giving away a clumsy free-kick which needed a stunning save onto the post to keep out Stanislas' excellent effort.
Manchester City made six changes to the side that beat Brighton, with Aymeric Laporte, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez among those benched.
Bournemouth changed shape to go 4-5-1, leaving Dominic Solanke as the lone striker with Josh King and Junior Stanislas returning on the wings.
Dominic Solanke also came close to levelling thanks to another concentration lapse from the Argentine, who allowed Dan Gosling space to find him in the box before recovering to block the eventual shot behind with Ederson out of position.
But a hammer blow would follow to Bournemouth's comeback hopes six minutes before half-time. David Silva was again involved as his slide-rule pass found Jesus on the left corner of the box. He danced his way past two challenges before slotting the ball past Ramsdale, and appeared to give City the breathing space they needed at the interval.
The Cherries were far from done, though. Fourteen minutes into the second period Solanke outmuscled Otamendi on the right and found Stanislas, whose curling effort past Ederson from the right was turned in on the line by King, only for his celebrations to be immediately cut short by a raised offside flag. A VAR review showed the Norway forward had been only millimetres ahead of Stones' trailing leg, but allowed City to escape unscathed.
Any ill feeling towards the video assistant from Bournemouth was soon wiped out when it stepped in to overturn Mason's decision to award a penalty against Steve Cook for catching Jesus in the area, with replays eventually showing he had made contact with the ball before bringing the Brazilian down.
A number of second-half substitutions from Eddie Howe did well to freshen up his side, and in the last 10 minutes they stepped up the pressure again. First Callum Wilson scuffed an effort wide from Brooks' square, but when the two swapped roles moments later there would be no mistake as the Wales midfielder stroked the ball into an empty net from his striker's pass after both had beaten the offside trap.
Callum Wilson was again off-target as the clock ticked into added time but Bournemouth's chances were still not over, with another Wilson effort falling for Lewis Cook, who should have shot but instead laid the ball off for Philip Billing, whose effort was blocked clear.
Those misses gave City their 24th win of the season and third in a row after a shock defeat at Southampton on July 5, while Bournemouth remain three points adrift from safety, before the teams above them have played their game in hand, with time swiftly running out.
What the managers said...
Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola: "It was a really difficult game, they played really well, even in the first half. They are playing for important things, and I give a lot of credit to what they've done.
"John Stones was really well in defensive areas, strong in the air, and played a really good game.
"[David Silva] is in incredible condition, in top condition. The way he is playing is really good, with the ball, without the ball, the second goal, the free-kick, yeah. He's playing really, really well. He's decided to go, so hopefully he can find the place he wants to play his last years."
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe: "Playing that well does make it better. It's not about performances at this stage of the season, we really want points, but I can't fault the lads for today. You can only look at what's happening in the present moment, and we were excellent, really unfortunate today.
"Their clinical finishing was the different between the teams. We had some great opening ourselves, we weren't quite as ruthless as they were, we'll kick ourselves when we look back at some of the chances.
"Today we looked a real threat in front of goal, I thought we had a lot of quality in our performance, we played at the right times, mixed it up quite well, were strong, and so I'm absolutely devastated to come away with nothing after giving so much to the game."
Man of the match - David Silva
He may be 34 years old, and Manchester City may have plenty of financial muscle, but there's no doubt they will miss the incredible talent of their Spanish pass master.
For the fourth season of his 10 in England, he reached 10 assists with his set-up for Jesus' goal against Bournemouth, but it was his free-kick - his second goal from as many attempts from set-pieces - which showed his class at its best.
A 96 per cent passing accuracy, which we saw on Wednesday night, for a man with his creative tendencies is hard to find, and whether it is Phil Foden or someone else who is to fill his boots, they will have a mighty job on their hands.
- Manchester City have won their last six home Premier League matches by an aggregate score of 21-1.
- Although they lost 2-1, Bournemouth were the first team to attempt more shots at goal (14-8) than Manchester City in a league match at the Etihad since Stoke City in April 2016, while they were the first opposing away team to do so against a side managed by Pep Guardiola since TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in March 2014 when he was Bayern Munich manager.
- English managers have taken just four points in their last 30 away Premier League matches against Manchester City (W1 D1 L28) - all four were won by Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace in December 2018 and January 2020.
- This was Pep Guardiola's 150th Premier League match as manager - he has won 111 games so far, six more than any other manager won in their first 150 in the competition.
Manchester City have an FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal on Saturday at 7.45pm, before visiting Watford on Tuesday night live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5.30pm; Kick-off at 6pm. They then host Norwich on the final day of the season.
Bournemouth's two make-or-break games see them host Southampton on Sunday at 2pm, before travelling to Everton on the last day of the season.