Roberto Mancini admitted Edin Dzeko's late winner in a 2-1 victory against Fulham at Craven Cottage was vital for Manchester City's chances of retaining the Premier League title.
The Bosnian striker pounced on a poor clearance from John Arne Riise three minutes from time to hand City their first win in five matches, a result that left them four points behind early season leaders Chelsea.
Fulham had taken the lead through Mladen Petric's first-half penalty and it needed an equaliser form Sergio Aguero on the stroke of half-time to get visitors City back into Saturday's game.
But Italian manager Mancini refused to accept Fulham deserved at least a point and praised his side for battling back from a goal down.
"We wouldn't have deserved to have drawn," said Mancini. "Against Fulham here is always difficult. This is always a tough game for us.
"The penalty was not a penalty -- I don't know why (it was given) -- and we didn't shoot on goal in the first 20 minutes. But the players played well and stayed calm.
He added: "We've been unlucky for three or four weeks when we've deserved to win. We had a lot of possession and deserved to score today. If we'd lost, it would have been a bad moment. But we won this victory.
"The season will be long, but it was important to stay close (to Chelsea)."
Mancini named Aguero and Carlos Tevez in the same side for only the second league match this season, while Fulham were without injured Dimitar Berbatov.
But it was the hosts who started more brightly, with Hugo Rodallega, Petric and Bryan Ruiz combining well in attack.
In the ninth minute, referee Mark Halsey adjudged that Pablo Zabaleta had brought down Riise in the box -- even though it looked like the offence had taken place just outside.
Petric stroked home for his third goal of the season and Fulham could easily have doubled their lead had the Croatian made more of a good pass from Rodallega midway through the half.
City eventually found a way past Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer just before the break when Aguero stabbed home after David Silva's shot was saved.
Brede Hangeland and Aguero both wasted headed chances in the second half but the game looked like it was heading for a draw before Riise's howler gifted the winning goal to Dzeko.
"You can't complain because they (City) are a world-class team," said Fulham manager Martin Jol.
"If it's still 1-1 after 87 minutes, then you still have some hope to do something on the break.
"The frustrating thing was that although they dominated possession the goals were pretty scrappy.
"But when you create chances you have to punish them and we did not do that," the Dutchman added.
"All we could do was defend and that is probably not enough against a team like that."
City face Borussia Dortmund in their second Champions League group stage match on Wednesday and Mancini revealed he has no fresh injury concerns.