Manchester City failed to bounce back from their weekend disappointment as they ground out a 2-2 draw against Sunderland on Wednesday.
Sunday's 3-2 defeat at Liverpool handed the Anfield outfit the upper hand in the Premier League title race and City looked set to react in the best possible way at the Etihad Stadium against bottom side Sunderland when Fernandinho broke the deadlock in only the second minute.
However, the hosts failed to build on their advantage and Connor Wickham made them pay in the 73rd minute when he volleyed home from an Emanuele Giaccherini cross.
And Wickham – recalled from a loan spell at Leeds United last month – silenced the home crowd by burying an effort in the bottom right-hand corner in the 83rd minute.
But Samir Nasri had the final say as his drilled effort two minutes from time was spilled by Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone before trickling over the line to earn a point for City.
Failure to seal victory sees City languishing six points adrift of leaders Liverpool with a game in hand, while a well-deserved share of the spoils for Sunderland lifts them to within six points of safety – again with a game in hand over the teams above them.
City needed a response after their defeat on Merseyside and it came in emphatic fashion, with two of Manuel Pellegrini's five additions to the starting XI heavily involved in the build-up as the home side went ahead inside two minutes.
Sergio Aguero slid the ball to Alvaro Negredo, whose dummy on the edge of the penalty area completely fooled defender Wes Brown – scorer of the own goal that led to his side's 1-0 defeat against Everton on Saturday – and Fernandinho made no mistake in squeezing his strike between Mannone and the right-hand post.
Former Manchester United defender John O'Shea rose well to meet an Adam Johnson free-kick from the right flank four minutes later, but the Irishman wasted the opportunity by heading harmlessly wide of the target, before nodding another effort narrowly over the crossbar.
City could have doubled their advantage when Fernandinho scooped a volley over the crossbar 11 minutes in, but Sunderland were pressing well and may well have drawn level eight minutes later had Fabio Borini been less selfish and squared to a team-mate rather than go for goal himself from a narrow angle.
Despite the early breakthrough, City were struggling to impose themselves on their lowly opponents.
Aguero was lucky to avoid serious injury following a dangerous tackle from Brown and the Argentine had calls for a penalty waved away before the break after going down under the challenge of O'Shea.
Substitute Stevan Jovetic tried to slot the ball beyond Mannone shortly after the hour mark, but his effort was tame and comfortably collected by the Italian.
Joe Hart had to make himself big at the other end after 72 minutes when Jack Colback found himself through one-on-one, but Wickham then turned the game on its head as he tapped home Giaccherini's cross before firing an unstoppable effort into the bottom right-hand corner to deal City's title hopes a second huge blow in the space of four days.
However, Nasri's late shot prompted the error from Mannone to at least earn City a point before the Frenchman blasted over the crossbar soon after.
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