Sergio Aguero scored his fifth goal in his last three games to help Manchester City back into third place in the Premier League and keep Sunderland rooted to the bottom of the table.
The Black Cats had defended doggedly before a swift City counter attack ended with Aguero prodding in Raheem Sterling’s low cross from close range.
The visitors then clicked into gear as David Silva fed the explosive Leroy Sane for the Germany winger to double their lead after the break.
Jermain Defoe did find the net in a rare Sunderland attack late on, but his header was ruled out for offside.
The result could have been more comfortable for City, but Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford saved well from Aguero.
For all City’s possession, it was the hosts who threatened first, Defoe hitting the post with a bouncing effort from outside the box that had Willy Caballero beaten.
Fabio Borini headed wide from the rebound, and any hopes David Moyes’ side had of taking three points seemed to evaporate with that miss.
City still fighting on three fronts
With Chelsea not in action until Monday, Manchester City took the chance to move within eight points of the runaway leaders with a confident performance at the Stadium of Light.
Pep Guardiola will hope this victory, and an earlier win for second-placed Tottenham, may see Antonio Conte’s side begin to feel the pressure.
It was a fourth league win on the trot for Guardiola’s outfit, who are building momentum and can continue to crank up the heat up on their title rivals when they face Stoke in a game in hand on Wednesday.
But they are fighting on three fronts, with this routine victory marking the start of five games in 15 days that include a Champions League last-16 second-leg trip to Monaco and a FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough.
It is a problem Guardiola will welcome, but does the Spaniard’s squad have the depth to cope?
He made five changes to the side which thrashed Huddersfield 5-1 in midweek and could afford to drop Kevin de Bruyne for Silva, whose incisive passing helped unlock a resilient Sunderland.
Aguero proves his worth
So what about Aguero? The Argentine’s future was thrust into the spotlight after he lost his place to 19-year-old Gabriel Jesus last month, and he admitted this week his position at the club was unclear.
Guardiola can be ruthless when he feels a player does not fit into his system, just ask Joe Hart, but a metatarsal injury for Brazil forward Jesus appears to have offered Aguero a lifeline.
The 28-year-old has now scored five goals in his last three games in all competitions for City, having gone six games without finding the net before that.
Guardiola is building a team spearheaded by youth, and Aguero’s poacher-like presence was complemented once again by the creativity of Sterling and Sane.
Sterling’s trickery proved a constant threat down the right and Sane’s sheer speed gave City an outlet on the opposite flank, gliding beyond his marker to finish left-footed past Pickford for the visitors’ second.
No miracle cure for Moyes
Sunderland have become masters of beating the drop when appearing dead and buried in recent seasons, but they may have left the escape act too late this time around.
Sitting six points from safety at the bottom of the Premier League, the Black Cats’ fate lies out of their hands.
And with relegation rivals Crystal Palace, Swansea and Leicester enjoying a recent upturn in form, David Moyes needs something of a miracle if his side are to spring a late recovery.
Moyes’ side have taken points off Liverpool and Tottenham at home since the turn of the year, and did frustrate City for long spells in the first half, but once the visitors found a breakthrough they were able to keep Sunderland at arm’s length.
Man of the match – David Silva (Man City)
‘I don’t like to defend a result at 2-0’
Sunderland manager David Moyes speaking to BBC Sport: “I don’t think you can fault the players for any of that. We lacked quality at times though. They did all they could to try to get something out of the game.”
On the team: “When you’re in it every day you see the levels go up. We’ve got games coming up – we don’t have to show it, we have to do it.
“We tried to make chances. The one that hits the post and comes out maybe that’ll hit the inside of the post and go in next time.
“I hope our players understand the position that we’re in, but we’re not panicking.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola speaking to BBC Sport: “We are so happy. We played good. We expected aggression and intensity. It was a very good first goal. It was important to go into half-time 1-0 up. If they were winning with the amazing atmosphere it would have been difficult.
“Leroy Sane is every day getting better. He has gaps to improve but he’s only 21. He’s an intelligent guy and a very nice guy. We are here to help him become what he can be.
“We were passing the ball between ourselves in the last 25 minutes. I don’t like to defend a result and be near our box. It is OK if you’re 3-0 or 4-0 up but not 2-0.”
Aguero hits 50 on the road – the stats
- Manchester City have won 10 away league games this season – they’ve never won more in a single Premier League campaign (also 10 in 2011-12, 2013-14 and 2014-15).
- Only Man Utd in 1993-94 and Chelsea in 2004-05 (both 11) have won more of their opening 14 away games in a single Premier League season.
- Sergio Aguero became the 21st player to score 50 Premier League goals away from home.
- Sunderland have failed to score in five of their last six Premier League games, the exception being a 4-0 win at Crystal Palace.
- David Silva has provided 62 assists in the Premier League since his debut, at least 11 more than any other player in that time (Wayne Rooney, 51).
Manchester City host Stoke on Wednesday, kick-off 20:00 GMT, before visiting Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Saturday (12:15).
Sunderland are not back in action until Saturday, 18 March, when they welcome Burnley to the Stadium of Light.
- 16O’SheaBooked at 32mins
- 44JanuzajSubstituted forKhazriat 82′minutes
- 24GibsonSubstituted forRodwellat 69′minutes
- 42Y TouréSubstituted forDe Bruyneat 78′minutes
- 7SterlingSubstituted forNolitoat 82′minutes
- 19SanéSubstituted forDelphat 89′minutes
- 17De Bruyne
- Martin Atkinson
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Sunderland 0, Manchester City 2.
Second Half ends, Sunderland 0, Manchester City 2.
Attempt blocked. Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is blocked. Assisted by Bacary Sagna.
Fabian Delph (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Fabio Borini (Sunderland).
Substitution, Manchester City. Fabian Delph replaces Leroy Sané.
Fernandinho (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland).
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Jordan Pickford.
Attempt saved. Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Leroy Sané.
Attempt saved. Nolito (Manchester City) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Kevin De Bruyne.
Attempt missed. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) left footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Leroy Sané.
Attempt saved. Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Kevin De Bruyne.
Offside, Sunderland. Lamine Koné tries a through ball, but Jermain Defoe is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Lamine Koné (Sunderland) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Wahbi Khazri with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Sunderland. Conceded by Gaël Clichy.
Corner, Sunderland. Conceded by John Stones.
Substitution, Sunderland. Wahbi Khazri replaces Adnan Januzaj.
Substitution, Manchester City. Nolito replaces Raheem Sterling.
Bacary Sagna (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Fabio Borini (Sunderland).
Substitution, Manchester City. Kevin De Bruyne replaces Yaya Touré.
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Lamine Koné.
Attempt missed. Yaya Touré (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by David Silva.
Attempt missed. Leroy Sané (Manchester City) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Raheem Sterling with a cross.
Substitution, Sunderland. Jack Rodwell replaces Darron Gibson because of an injury.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Darron Gibson (Sunderland) because of an injury.
Attempt missed. Adnan Januzaj (Sunderland) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Bryan Oviedo with a cross.
Attempt saved. Lamine Koné (Sunderland) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Adnan Januzaj with a cross.
Corner, Sunderland. Conceded by Willy Caballero.
Attempt saved. Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is saved in the centre of the goal.
Goal! Sunderland 0, Manchester City 2. Leroy Sané (Manchester City) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by David Silva with a through ball.
Attempt blocked. Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by David Silva.
Attempt saved. David Silva (Manchester City) left footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Raheem Sterling.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland).
Offside, Sunderland. Adnan Januzaj tries a through ball, but Didier Ndong is caught offside.
Foul by Fernandinho (Manchester City).
Didier Ndong (Sunderland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.