The visitors dominated possession in the first half but could not make the most of that supremacy until halfway through the second term as they finished the match in a fairly nervy manner with Villa pressing hard for a leveler.
Alex McLeish's Villa seldom troubled the opposition defence for the first 88 or so minutes as they hardly attacked with any menace and were devoid of any creative ideas up front and although they did manage to produce a solid game defensively, it was simply not enough against Roberto Mancini's renewed league leaders.
After over an hour of frustration, City finally broke the deadlock when Joleon Lescott struck from close range to give his side a deserved lead. Gareth Barry's back post header from James Milner's corner fell into the path of the former Everton man and he hammered home from inside the six-yard box for his fifth Premier League goal against the club he grew up supporting.
There were very few out-and-out scoring chances throughout the contest although City by far had the better of the opportunities with a total of 16 shots at goal with seven being on target.
City's best effort apart from the goal came in the 27th minute when Adam Johnson was denied by the upright when he pulled the trigger on his dangerous left foot from outside the area with Villa keeper Shay Given at bay.
Late in the piece, Villa defender Carlos Cuellar had a great chance to level two minutes from time but his free header from a corner flew over the crossbar before the commanding Joe Hart produced a match-winning save from Darren Bent's close range flick-on as the home side had to settle for a narrow defeat which kept them 15th on the table with just one win from their last five outings and none in six at home.
TRIBAL ASKS: Man City fight out another required result to remain top. Will the addition of the Toure's and Balotelli in the coming weeks have a significant impact on their title chase?
Villa Park, Birmingham
Yellow cards:AV - Stiliyan Petrov 62', Richard Dunne 68', Charles' N'Zogbia 88' MANC - nil