City ride on Barry's strike

Arteta scores from the spot as Arsenal edge Wigan

Manchester City endured 93 minutes of frustration before Gareth Barry’s stoppage time header earned the Premier League champions a precious 1-0 victory over bottom club Reading on Saturday to keep the pressure on leaders Manchester United.

Roberto Mancini’s side, who won the title in the dying seconds of last season, displayed the handy knack of scoring late again as Barry’s goal broke Reading’s resistance and moved City to within three points of United who play at Swansea on Sunday.

City have 39 points from 18 games, followed by four clubs on 30 points after a rainswept opening to the busy holiday programme yielded a mere 10 goals.

A second-half penalty by Mikel Arteta earned Arsenal a 1-0 victory at Wigan Athletic as the Gunners moved up to third place while north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur fell out of the top four after a 0-0 home draw with Stoke City.

Everton climbed to fourth, making light of Marouane Fellaini’s absence through suspension, to win 2-1 at West Ham United in game in which both sides ended with 10 men.

West Bromwich Albion also reached the 30-point mark after ending Norwich City’s 10-match unbeaten league run with Romelu Lukaku sealing a 2-1 victory 10 minutes from time after Norwich had taken the lead at the Hawthorns.

Chelsea, who have 29 points from two fewer games, can jump back to third place if they beat Aston Villa on Sunday.

There was no pre-Christmas cheer for the bottom four with Reading, Wigan, Queens Park Rangers and Southampton all losing.

QPR’s revival under new manager Harry Redknapp came to a halt with a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United while Sunderland also edged clear of the bottom three after a 1-0 win at Southampton.

City, whose 37-match unbeaten sequence in the league was ended by United earlier this month, were expected to breeze past a Reading side whose defence went missing in a Monday night thrashing by Arsenal but the visitors had not read the script.

Reading were heading for a well-deserved point after restricting City to a handful of chances and even had a reasonable penalty shout waved away but they cracked three minutes into stoppage time.

David Silva crossed into the area as City launched one final assault and Barry, who appeared to have his hand on Reading defender Nicky Shorey, climbed to thump a header into the corner to the relief of the home fans and manager Mancini.

Arsenal claimed a third consecutive victory and, although they remain 12 points behind United, the storm clouds that were hanging over Arsene Wenger appear to be dispersing.

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