Phil Foden scored a brilliantly composed hat-trick as Manchester City turned on the style to earn a 3-1 comeback win at battling Brentford on Monday and close to within two points of Premier League leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
Despite almost constant City pressure, Brentford led with a Neal Maupay goal after 21 minutes, only for Foden to level just before halftime then add two more excellent goals as the visitors took control with another classy display of possession and probing.
Liverpool, beaten by Arsenal on Sunday, lead the table on 51 points from 23 games but City are up to 49 from 22 and Arsenal on 49 from 23.
"He always had an eye for a goal," City manager Pep Guardiola said of Foden. "He's got 250 games already and he's had an impact with goals this season. He's incredible.
"I think we deserved it but they are a really tough opponent. We had a lot of chances and their keeper was sensational."
Remarkably Brentford did the double over City last season, beating them 1-0 in London in the last game in May when the title was already secure, having won 2-1 at the Etihad in November.
Another win looked unlikely after the one-way early exchanges on Monday as Julian Alvarez, twice, and Kyle Walker had curling shots pushed wide by Brentford keeper Mark Flekken.
It was Brentford though who struck first, via a Sunday football goal, as Flekken launched a goal kick that Nathan Ake, under pressure from Ivan Toney, failed to touch. Maupay was left with a clear run on goal and calmly tucked the ball into the bottom corner after 21 minutes.
Maupay could not buy a goal while at Everton but has now scored five in the last five games in all competitions while on loan at Brentford.
Erling Haaland had a chance to equalise immediately but Flekken again came to the rescue with his feet, before saving yet again from Josko Gvardial.
Brentford then won a series of corners and provided the remarkable sight of nine of their men in the six-yard box with only one outfield player from each side occupying the remaining 90 metres of grass.
They came to nothing though and City levelled in first-half stoppage time when Foden seized on a weak clearance header, calmly chesting the ball down and sweeping it in with his side’s 17th attempt on goal in the half.
It was the ever-elusive Foden again who put them ahead after Kevin de Bruyne clipped in a perfect cross for the unmarked midfielder to glance home in the 53rd minute.
Spirited Brentford did have a flurry of attempts but City dealt with them before Foden completed his treble with another calm finish after a one-two with Haaland in the 70th minute.
The turnaround was hardly a surprise as City had won their last three away league games despite going behind, while Brentford are the worst in the league for throwing away leads – costing them a nominal 26 points already this season.
Brentford have collected three points from their last eight league games, losing seven of them, and have slipped to 15th, three points above the relegation zone.
"It was a good performance overall from us, we did a lot of things right," said manager Thomas Frank.
"In the first half we defended very well and limited them to shots outside the box, but in the second half they got a tiny bit of space and that made the difference."