Joleon Lescott kick-started City's season way back in August at Wembley, but his second-half winner at Villa Park might come to be the one he remembers most fondly.
His close-range hook into Shay Given's net squeezed the Blues back to the top of the Barclays Premier League and ended a leanish spell on the road. Lescott showed all the movement and preditory instincts of a striker to carve out space and time to score
Roberto Mancini's men had lost three of their last five away games and had won only once since Bonfire Night. There were no pyrotechnics, nor were Villa really at it, but this was a must-win and, eventually, a job well done.
City's recent away record has not even come close to matching those inspirational early-season performances at Manchester United and Tottenham, and once more they struggled to turn possession into goals in a one-sided first half.
While Villa had Blues nemesis Darren Bent teamed up with nomadic striker Robbie Keane - another who has enjoyed scoring against City for several clubs - they were denied anything like decent service by a busy midfield superbly led by Gareth Barry.
Instead it was Mancini's men who hogged the ball, only to find their finishing touch missing when it came to the crunch in a frustrating start to a game they desperately wanted to win.
Adam Johnson did rap a shot against the foot of Shay Given's left-hand post, hitting his shot from the edge of the penalty area as Villa failed to respond to a short corner.
David Silva was in good nick, with his first touch bordering on the magical at times, but when he shimmied brilliantly into the area he could only steer his shot towards Given.
For all his footballer-of-the-year form, Silva has yet to score in this calendar year. Sergio Aguero, by contrast, is up to 18 for the campaign but managed a couple of first-half miscues.
James Milner, up against his old team-mates alongside Barry, also miskicked in front of Given's goal after a decnet run, the Villa defence thankfully scrambling the ball clear.
Villa's riposte was almost risible, and down entirely to former Blue Richard Dunne, who directed one header straight to Joe Hart then another woefully over the bar from a corner.
City might have taken the lead when they resumed, but while Silva's superb free kick floated invitingly for Lescott, the defender directed his header over Given's bar.
Aleks Kolarov then sent a cross-cum-shot scudding towards the far post but neither Silva nor Aguero, straining for all his worth, could manage the contact to beat City's former goalkeeper.
But patience is a virtue, and the breakthrough came in the 63rd minute as Barry pulled away from the pack to head a flag kick back into the middle and Lescott steered the ball home from just a couple of yards.
Remarkably for a defender, who was celebrating only his third goal of the campaign, Lescott has now scored five times against the Villa team he supported as a boy.
More pertinently for City, he returned the Blues to pole position, and if his winner came from a set peice rather than the team's more sophisticated sorties, nobody was complaining.
City finished up facing three former Blues as Stephen Ireland was thrown into the fray a quarter of an hour from the end, but even Superman couldn't overpower Mancini's heroes.
Certainly not when Hart, who had been a spectator for the most part, pulled off a fabulous one-handed save from Bent in time added on as Villa threw everything at him.