Bernardo Silva was relieved to end his Premier League goal drought as Manchester City earned a late 2-0 win over Aston Villa to go top.
The Portugal international superbly scored a disputed first Premier League goal of the season 11 minutes from time.
Villa boss Dean Smith was sent off for his protests after he felt Silva's strike should have been ruled out for offside against Rodri, who won the ball back from Tyrone Mings in the build-up.
The Spain international was in a clear offside position when Mings received possession but the officials allowed the goal to stand because, under the current interpretation of the law, a new phase of play began after the Villa centre-back touched the ball.
Ilkay Gundogan's last-minute penalty sealed the points to extend City's winning run to nine matches.
Rivals Manchester United can replace them at the summit if they are victorious when they face Fulham later on Wednesday.
For Silva, it was his first league strike since the 5-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion in July.
And it was his first Premier League goal at the Etihad Stadium in 20 appearances, since scoring a hat-trick against Watford in September 2019.
"It has been a long time since I have scored," Silva said to BT Sport.
"I'm happy to score. It doesn't matter who scores the goals but I'm happy to score.
"Most important we are leaders for now. There is still a long way to go but still, very happy. We are doing very well, very solid at the back. We are happy with the last two games and our momentum."
The breakthrough arrived just as it looked like Villa would halt City's fine run of form.
Silva's opener was the 36th effort at goal in a dramatic match, and City's 25th of the contest.
Asked about Villa's complaints over his goal, Silva added: "I haven't checked it yet.
"Our player was offside but when their defender touched it, he stops being offside, I think. But I haven't checked it.
"It was a very important win, a tough game for us. Just three more points and on to the next one.
"It felt like an important win because we got to the 75th minute without scoring, so to get those two goals, we are very happy."
City have now won 15 of their past 16 Premier League home games against Villa, including an on-going streak of 11 in a row.
And their forthcomig fixtures appear favourable as they look to extend their winning run.
After an FA Cup match with League Two Cheltenham Town, City face struggling trio West Brom, Sheffield United and Burnley prior to their crunch clash with champions Liverpool at Anfield on February 6.