LONDON - Manchester City's challenge for the English Premier League title suffered a setback as they were forced to stage a late fightback just to salvage a 3-3 draw against Sunderland at Eastlands yesterday.
With leaders Manchester United not in action until Monday's trip to Blackburn, Roberto Mancini's side would have returned to the top of the table on goal difference if they had beaten the Black Cats.
But City, who had won their previous 20 home league games to set a Premier League record, are two points behind United and that gap will extend to five if the champions win at Ewood Park.
City, on a run of only one win in four league matches, fell behind to Sweden midfielder Sebastian Larsson's cool finish in the 31st minute.
Mancini's men equalised two minutes before halftime when referee Phil Dowd harshly awarded a penalty for Craig Gardner's challenge on Edin Dzeko.
Mario Balotelli stroked home the spot-kick, yet City were behind again moments later as on-loan Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner headed in Stephane Sessegnon's cross.
Larsson added the third goal as he fired Sessegnon's pass beyond Joe Hart in the 55th minute.
But, to their credit, City kept going and Balotelli struck again in the 85th minute before Aleksandar Kolarov hit the equaliser moments later.
Chelsea kept their top-four bid alive with a 4-2 win over Aston Villa as the home faithful paid tribute to stricken captain Stiliyan Petrov.
Petrov's presence at Villa Park just 24 hours after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia produced an emotional atmosphere.
With reports circulating that the Villa midfielder will retire to focus on his battle, a tearful Petrov was given a rapturous reception from the home fans.
Chelsea made the perfect start when Daniel Sturridge slotted home in the ninth minute and Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic doubled their lead in the 51st minute.