Manchester City survived a serious scare. But in this 3-1 victory at Wolves, Pep Guardiola will take satisfaction from the type of result that too often evaded them as they surrendered their title to Liverpool last season.
Quite literally considering the opposition, who won home and away against City last term.
A raucous come-from-behind victory for Wolves at Molineux in December prompted Guardiola to effectively concede the title before the turn of the year.
And during a nervy second half here, the Catalan must have feared history would repeat itself as Wolves mounted ever-increasing pressure on the City defence.
They threw away a two-goal lead here in their last visit – losing 3-2.
But Gabriel Jesus’ injury-time strike ensured the points, which already look vital, given Liverpool’s perfect start to the campaign.
It was City’s ability to resist Wolves’ fightback that is sure to hearten Guardiola most.
His team were too much of a soft touch last season and too often failed to react in the face of Liverpool’s procession towards the title.
Tired after such a short pre-season, they mustered the resolve to just about stay in control. And at precisely the moment Wolves genuinely believed they could produce a spectacular turnaround, City came up with the perfect response.
Late goals were typical of their back-to-back titles under Guardiola – just as they were for Jurgen Klopp’s champions last season.
Jesus’ goal may not have been a late, late winner like Mo Salah’s penalty against Leeds last week, but it had the feel of one.
That is precisely the strength of character Guardiola wants to see from his players as he seeks a reaction to their dethroning.
That De Bruyne was at the heart of the action as Jesus struck is no surprise.
For long periods Molineux felt a personal stage to showcase his talents.
City may have missed out on Lionel Messi this summer – maybe for good – but in the Belgian they have the Premier League’s finest asset and their own talisman.
De Bruyne – fresh from being named PFA Player of the Year – showed exactly why his peers rate him so highly with a masterful performance.
He can make a football do things that no other player in this country can rival.
The precision of his passing is as close to perfection as you could hope to see – so much so that the danger is his brilliance can sometimes be taken for granted. He makes it look so effortless that it can be forgotten just how rare his talent is.
He may not be Messi, but he is the player who raises even this supreme collection of players to greater heights. And if anyone is to inspire Guardiola’s side in their bid to reclaim the title from Liverpool, it is De Bruyne.
He was unplayable – scoring one goal, playing a major role in the other two and creating numerous other chances for City to win by an even greater margin.
His contribution to Jesus’ goal was rather scrappy – snapping at a loose ball around the edge of the Wolves box, which allowed his team-mate to drive forward and fire past Rui Patricio.
But it was certainly vital.
He had put City ahead from the spot after 20 minutes when tempting Romain Saiss to bring him down inside the box.
His perfect pass found Raheem Sterling 12 minutes later and lead to Foden doubling City’s advantage with a driven effort.
At that point the result never looked in doubt, but a much-improved Wolves pushed them to the limit after the break.
Adama Traore began to dominate on the right as Wolves created numerous chances to give themselves a foothold with Jimenez, Daniel Podence and Ruben Neves all coming close as City were forced to retreat further.
When Jimenez headed home it was the least Wolves deserved and set up a thrilling finale.
That was until Jesus struck.
A very dangerous hurdle overcome and a measure of the resolve that will be needed if the title is to find its way back to the Etihad.