An exhibition of controlled, possession football from Manchester City sealed an emphatic 3-1 win over Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium.
The Citizens thoroughly outclassed the visitors from start to finish, enjoying an incredible 80% possession as they dominated their relegation threatened opponents.
The two teams poised in reflection before kick-off as the Etihad celebrated the life of pioneer Cyrille Regis - who passed away during the week at the age of 59.
City made two changes from the side beaten in the Premier League for the first time in 281 days at Anfield. David Silva replaced Ilkay Gundogan in midfield, with Oleksandr Zinchenko coming in for his first Premier League start at left-back, in place of the injured Fabian Delph.
Rafa Benitez made four changes to the side that started last weekend's 1-1 home draw with Swansea.
Newcastle started brightly, Jonjo Shelvey's quick thinking from a free-kick allowing Christian Atsu to put in the first dangerous cross of the game. Ciaran Clark scuffed his effort into the hands of Ederson however after a good clearing header from Zinchenko.
The hosts began to assert their authority on proceedings, stroking the ball around menacingly as they began probing for an opener. Zinchenko was looking positive in attack, with Kyle Walker also providing excellent support on the right-hand side.
City had the ball in the net just after quarter an hour, but much to their frustration, saw their effort disallowed for offside. Joselu's misplaced pass in the City half allowed the home side to counter at devastating pace. Kevin De Bruyne's incisive pass found a central Leroy Sane, the German quickly flicking the ball round the corner to David Silva.
Sterling has the ball in the net for City but it's ruled out for a tight offside decision! A sign of things to come?#MCINEW— 90min (@90min_Football) January 20, 2018
The Spaniard's low piercing cross was perfectly weighted for an on-rushing Raheem Sterling to tap home, but the Citizens top scorer had just strayed beyond Toon defender Jamaal Lascelles.
A period of dominance followed for the hosts, as they began to fashion chances. Though unable to bombard Newcastle's goal like they have done in previous matches, City were creating space and threading dangerous balls into the Toon box. Silva came close, the attacking midfielders low effort kept out well by Karl Darlow following good work from Sane.
From the resulting throw-in, City made the breakthrough just after the half an hour mark.
The hosts continued to press for a second before the interval, Darlow again rescuing his side as he palmed De Bruyne's low left footed drive around the post, before Aguero was again denied. The half-time whistle was a relief to Rafa Benitez, who had been furiously scribbling on his notepad during an opening period that saw the hosts have an astonishing 82% possession.
The second period began much as the first had ended, with City firmly camped in Newcastle's half. Such was their territorial domination, Ederson spent the majority of his time during the opening 15 minutes closer to the halfway line, then he did to his goal.
For all of their possession, the hosts weren't fashioning many chances, instead content to wear out a Newcastle side simply chasing shadows. Inevitably though, their patient approach would eventually pay off. A delightfully slick, quick passing move saw Sterling cut inside from the byline, the England winger proving too quick for Manquillo, who brought door him down to concede a clear cut penalty.
Aguero stepped up and duly converted his 15th goal of the season, though Darlow would have been frustrated to not keep it out after guessing the right way. The game seemed all but over, with City having increased their possession to a staggering 85% by this point.
However, time and time again the Premier League throws up twists and turns when you least expect them. Played off of the park for over an hour, and thoroughly outclassed, Newcastle suddenly hit back. Poor control from Joselu in his own half turned out to be a stroke of genius, as Isaac Hayden threaded a glorious through pass through the heart of City's defence. Jacob Murphy rushed clear of Zinchenko, keeping his composure to score with an impudent dink over the on rushing Ederson.
The goal spurred the game back into life, with both sides creating great opportunities. First, Darlow superbly denied Sterling, deflecting his fierce drive onto the post after good work from Sane, before Ederson had a rare moment of butter fingers, carelessly spilling the ball after parrying Mo Diame's initial effort. The Citizens keeper got lucky however, keeping out Perez's rebound before City cleared their lines.
Just as the thought of stealing a point had perhaps crossed Toon supporters mind, City extinguished any hopes of a comeback with a fine third. Outstanding individual work from a marauding Sane eventually saw the winger create himself enough space to fizz in another testing cross. The German executed with aplomb, finding Aguero, who superbly controlled before firing a low strike past the helpless Darlow.
Three points and another commanding performance from Pep Guardiola's men, who will now switch their attention to Tuesday's Carabao Cup semi-final second leg tie against Bristol City.