MANCHESTER – Kevin de Bruyne scored twice as Manchester City beat first-place Arsenal 4-1 on Wednesday to take control of the Premier League title race.
While the defending champions remain second in the standings, Arsenal's lead was cut to two points, with City having two games in hand.
A third league title in as many years is now in sight for manager Pep Guardiola, whose team is in contention for a treble of trophies including the Champions League and FA Cup.
Arsenal proved no match for City in a game that always looked likely to have a major say in determining who would be crowned champions.
Mikel Arteta's team has led the way for much of the season but never recovered from De Bruyne's seventh minute opener at Etihad Stadium.
Aaron Ramsdale produced a string of fine saves to keep Arsenal in the game until John Stones headed in a second for City in first-half stoppage time.
Any hopes of an unlikely comeback were ended nine minutes into the second half when De Bruyne scored his second of the match.
Rob Holding pulled one back for Arsenal in the 86th, but it was too late to change the outcome.
Erling Haaland completed the rout to make it 4-1 in stoppage time.
It is the third time City has beaten Arsenal this season, including victory in the FA Cup, and extends its winning sequence against the Londoners to eight games.
While nothing is decided yet, Arsenal needed to win the game to ensure it remained in control of the title race after a recent slump had handed the initiative to City.
Three successive draws against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton had delivered a major blow to the club’s hopes of a first title in 19 years.
City, meanwhile, was on the back of a 16-game unbeaten run in all competitions and producing its best form of the season.
The confidence flowing through the team was evident from the start.
Leading 2-0 at halftime, it could have been even further ahead after dominating the first 45 minutes.
City had two penalty appeals early on before De Bruyne struck from a swift break that was a sign of things to come.
Stones’ long clearance was held up by Haaland just inside Arsenal’s half and the Norwegian then laid off to De Bruyne. The Belgian playmaker burst forward and unleashed a low shot past Ramsdale from around 20 meters.
De Bruyne looked set to the double City’s lead with another breakaway, but on this occasion Ben White’s last ditch block denied him.
City kept coming, with Haaland seeing three efforts stopped by Ramsdale as Arsenal edged toward the break only one goal behind.
The visitors’ resistance was broken, however, in first-half stoppage time when Stones headed in De Bruyne’s free kick, with VAR awarding the goal after it had initially been ruled out for offside.
De Bruyne scored his second when played in by Haaland again within 10 minutes of the second half, slipping a close-range shot past Ramsdale.
With the game effectively over, Holding fired in a consolation for Arsenal.
But Haaland struck his 49th goal of the season in stoppage time to confirm City’s superiority.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson