After a disappointing first half in which Manchester City struggled to break down Graham Potter’s side, Kevin De Bruyne provided the spark as City regained their one-point lead.
De Bruyne set up Riyad Mahrez for the opener and then delivered Bernardo Silva with the game-winning assist eight minutes from time.
In the meantime, after Riyad Mahrez identified the England player alone just beyond the box at a corner, Phil Foden required the help of a deflection to beat the Brighton keeper.
The goals eased the anxiety that had been building around Etihad Stadium, and City now knows that they must win six more games to defend their title, starting with a home game against relegation-threatened Watford on Saturday.
The Kevin de Bruyne difference in the game with Manchester City
Although De Bruyne’s name did not appear on the scoresheet, the standing ovation he received when he was replaced by Gabriel Jesus immediately after Bernardo’s goal spoke it all about the Belgian’s role. Eight minutes after the restart, De Bruyne took direct action in response to rising displeasure in the supporters.
He went on a tearing run from inside his own half, and his desire to make an impact drove him to keep going when he could have easily stopped to claim free-kicks twice.
He instead stayed on his feet and deflected the third challenge before passing the ball to Mahrez. The Algerian took advantage of a number of fortunate deflections, the first of which gave him the opportunity to fire before a second deflected it past Robert Sanchez.
This was the Algerian’s 250th Premier League appearance, and he assisted Guardiola in earning City’s 250th victory, which he did 52 games faster than any other manager in English top-flight history.
After Foden doubled the hosts’ lead, De Bruyne again played a key role as Bernardo added a third, deftly flicking on Oleksandr Zinchenko’s pass after the Ukrainian – who had earlier received a warm reception on only his second home appearance since the Russian invasion of his homeland – had taken advantage of Brighton’s hesitation inside their own half.
The failed plan of Brighton against Manchester City
Brighton’s poor record against City, which included eight defeats in nine Premier League matches and no away victories in their whole existence, gave them little reason to be optimistic.
Potter, however, showed what a team could achieve with a game plan that players readily follow after recent fantastic wins against Tottenham and Arsenal.
A three-man defense, headed by Lewis Dunk with his usual authority, was bolstered by a further three in front of them, with little room in between for City’s superb playmakers to demonstrate their abilities.
True, offensive opportunities for the visitors were few – the closest they came in the first half was a Pascal Gross corner that dropped into a dangerous position inside the six-yard box before being cleared by Aymeric Laporte.
Their efforts, though, were yet another significant achievement for Potter, who has led Brighton to their best-ever result.
Unfortunately for the visitors, they were only able to hold off City for eight minutes of the second period, and then it was back to business.