Sergio Aguero limped off but Manchester City survived a Southampton fightback to get back to winning ways and the top of the table with a 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium.
Title favourites City raced ahead as they sought a first win in three Barclays Premier League games with early goals from Kevin De Bruyne and full debutant Fabian Delph in heavy Manchester rain.
But Saints hit back through Shane Long and City worries increased as top striker Aguero appeared to suffer an ankle injury but Aleksandar Kolarov settled nerves with the hosts’ third.
It was a bruising encounter and Saints, after standing up to City, may rue their slow start.
City began with a determination to put an end to their recent poor sequence.
Kolarov hit the bar from a free-kick in the opening minutes and Maarten Stekelenburg anxiously grabbed the ball as City players swarmed in.
More pressure led to the opener after nine minutes as Raheem Sterling robbed Maya Yoshida and sprinted into the area to square for De Bruyne to tap in.
The impressive Delph then took advantage of slack defending to feed Aguero but Stekelenburg rushed out to block the Argentinian.
City appealed for a penalty when Steven Davis appeared to block a Fernandinho header on the line with his arm, but the sense of injustice did not last long as Delph struck from the resulting corner.
The midfielder needed no invitation to shoot as the ball rolled into his path outside the area but he benefited from a big deflection off the luckless Virgil van Dijk as Stekelenburg was wrong-footed.
That seemed to spark Saints into life and Van Dijk was unfortunate again as he struck the bar from 25 yards.
Willy Caballero, standing in for the injured Joe Hart, then failed to deal with a James Ward-Prowse free-kick but recovered to keep out Saido Mane’s follow-up effort. Another Ward-Prowse set-piece flew narrowly wide.
The tempo increased and the tackles became tougher with Nicolas Otamendi going in strong on Mane and illegally on Long. Van Dijk and Bacary Sagna clashed heads while Fonte was injured in a heavy and questionable challenge on Aguero.
Sterling fired over when presented with a great chance to make it 3-0 and Saints pulled one back early in the second half as Long powered in a header from a superb Mane cross.
That gave Southampton even more encouragement and the probing of Dusan Tadic, a shrewd half-time introduction, continually troubled the hosts.
Cabellero also looked nervy in goal but he clawed away an attempted Tadic chip and City escaped as Long’s follow-up shot struck the arm of a defender. Long had another effort saved by Caballero as Saints kept up the pressure.
City suffered a further blow as leading striker Aguero limped off with an ankle injury but they will at least have been buoyed by the introduction of David Silva from the bench after nine games out.
City weathered the storm and took the sting out of the game with a third goal after 69 minutes.
Sterling made the initial run and Wilfried Bony was involved before De Bruyne, resisting the temptation to shoot, cleverly picked out an unmarked Kolarov on the far side. The Serbian drove home to ease City nerves.
Bony should have had another as he shot horribly wide late on but City had done enough, even though they may have been left to count the cost.