Crystal Palace went down to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Manchester City in their final game of 2013, despite a superb display against the Premier League title favourites.
A second half strike from Edin Dzeko proved the only difference between the sides, as the Eagles gave their illustrious opponents a real fright at the Etihad Stadium. But the Bosnian's strike was enough to maintain City's 100 per cent home record and send them to the top of the table.
After bossing possession in the early stages of the game, the hosts created their first clear-cut opportunity five minutes in. David Silva ghosted inside and slipped a neat slide-rule pass into the path of Dzeko, who dragged his left-footed shot past the far post.
Manuel Pellegrini's men were dictating the play, just as you would expect from a side with such an imperious home record, and they came close again with 10 minutes on the clock. Jesus Navas worked the ball inside from the right flank to Fernandinho, who in turn found Silva, but he fired wide from 20 yards.
Five minutes later though, Palace fashioned their first chance of the match. After some neat play at the back involving Mariappa, Delaney and Puncheon, the on loan winger played a raking 50-yard pass to Yannick Bolasie on the left. He ran at Dedryck Boyata and cut inside onto his stronger right foot, but failed to test Joe Hart with his effort from just outside the box.
That seemed to give the Eagles some confidence, but Bolasie's opposite number James Milner then smashed an effort over at the other end, before Vincent Kompany drilled a low strike straight at Julian Speroni from 30 yards as the Argentine dirtied his gloves for the first time.
Milner came even closer on 24 minutes when his right-footed snapshot took a slight deflection and fizzed inches past Speroni's left-hand upright as Tony Pulis' men continued to frustrate the title contenders. That frustration was starting to transmit to the stands when Puncheon's cross found it's way to Bolasie, who volleyed straight at Hart.
Palace's best spell of the half was interrupted though when Jonny Parr's dangerous low centre led to a crunching challenge between Jerome and Hart, who caught the striker's boot flush in the face and required treatment for a cut just below his left eye. The clash left Jerome injured too and he was ultimately replaced by the returning Marouane Chamakh.
As the clock ticked towards half time, the City faithful were becoming increasingly restless as their team, who had averaged more than four goals per game at the Etihad Stadium going into today's match, struggled to break down a resilient Palace defence.
Fernandinho twice came close to breaking the deadlock before the break though. First the Brazilian dinked the ball away from Adrian Mariappa and smashed a volley over the bar, before a back-pedalling Speroni clawed the midfielder's looping header over the bar in first half stoppage time.
It was a frenetic end to the first 45 minutes as Palace battled to keep the scoreline at 0-0 and in doing so, became only the second visiting Premier League team this season to keep a first half clean sheet at the Etihad.
And five minutes into the second period, the visitors came close to getting their noses in front. Joel Ward found Puncheon, who cut inside from the right and beat three men before hitting a stinging drive, which Hart did well to turn around the post. The resulting corner from Barry Bannan picked out Chamakh, who headed just over from six yards.
With City unable to unlock the Eagles defence, Pellegrini turned to the firepower on his bench for help, brining on both Samir Nasri and Alvaro Negredo 10 minutes into the second half. But it was Puncheon again who had next the next attempt on goal, bending a beautifully shaped shot away from the well-beaten Hart but just wide of the post as Palace sensed a huge upset.
The brilliant Mile Jedinak then forced Hart into action as the England keeper tipped over the Australian international's 25-yard strike. Just moments later though, it was the hosts who drew first blood on 66 minutes. Nasri's cross found it's way to Navas at the back post, and the Spaniard calmly cut the ball back for Dzeko to slam his first time effort beyond Speroni.
Unfazed by the setback, Palace came within inches of an immediate response when Ward's arrowing 25-yard volley produced a stunning save from man of the match Hart, who sprung across his goal to get the slightest of fingertips on the ball. And Ward went close again from the resulting corner, heading wide from six yards when presented with a free header at the back post.
With time ebbing away, it was soon Pulis' turn to roll the dice, as he threw on Jonny Williams and then Dwight Gayle and switched to a 4-4-2 formation in search of a late equaliser. But although the Eagles were unable to find the leveller that their enterprising and fearless performance deserved, they departed Manchester with plenty of positives to take into the New Year's Day encounter with Norwich City.
Man City: Hart, Boyata (Negredo 55), Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Garcia, Fernandinho (Nasri 55), Navas, Silva, Milner (Kolarov 74), Dzeko. Unused subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Rodwell, Yaya Toure.
Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Parr, Ward, Jedinak, Bannan (Gayle 81), Puncheon, Bolasie (Jonny Williams 76), Jerome (Chamakh 34). Unused subs: Price, Moxey, Campana, Phillips.