Edin Dzeko helped Manchester City end a poor two-month away run with the lone match-winner against Wigan Athletic, but it was manager Roberto Mancini's action on the sidelines that took the focus away from that relief.
The Italian manager was left to defend his decision to wave an imaginary card at referee Martin Atkinson to signify Maynor Figueroa should have been sent off in the 88th minute.
Ever since City's FA Cup defeat to Manchester United, Mancini has been embroiled in rows over controversial refereeing decisions.
Against United he lambasted Wayne Rooney for what he felt was the striker's part in getting Vincent Kompany sent off.
Then, three days later, Mancini got involved in a tunnel row with Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, who accused the Italian of doing exactly the same thing following Glen Johnson's two-footed tackle on Joleon Lescott.
Tonight, Mancini was up in arms that Figueroa, having completely misjudged the bounce of Nigel de Jong's long punt forward, only got a yellow card when he handled the ball to prevent Sergio Aguero running through on goal from the halfway line.
Last night, Rooney was quick to make a sarcastic comment. "Was Manchini (sic) asking for red card????" Rooney wrote on Twitter.
But Mancini defended his actions, saying: "It is normal when it is something like today.
"I am on the bench. It is different to a player who is near the referee. They can have more influence.
"From the bench, it is what you think at that moment but the referee doesn't see you."
Opposite number Roberto Martinez agreed with the referee that the incident took place too far from the Wigan goal to be considered a clear goalscoring opportunity.
"I don't think it was a goalscoring opportunity," he said. "He has misjudged the bounce but he is not even in his own half. I don't think it is a red card."
Martinez also believes Mancini's conduct will not go down well. "I've been here long enough to understand that trying to influence the referee is not accepted in the British game," he said.
"I've been here since 1995 so I know when a player tries to buy a decision from the referee it is not seen as clever. It is seen as cheating."
The row overshadowed a victory that took City three points clear of Manchester United and five in front of Tottenham, whom they face at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
And it was a personal triumph for Dzeko, who ended an 11-match goalscoring drought by heading home his 14th of the season from David Silva's 21st-minute corner.
"I am happy for Edin," Mancini said. "He deserved to score an important goal. I hope he can continue to score."
Mancini is hoping both Micah Richards and Mario Balotelli, who were missing with hamstring and ankle problems respectively, will be available for the Spurs encounter, when Emmanuel Adebayor will be prevented from playing due to the Premier League's rules on loan players.
But with Kompany suspended for a further two games and Yaya and Kolo Toure about to begin their African Nations Cup campaign with the Ivory Coast, City's 'difficult moment' is not over yet.
"At the moment it is impossible to have an easy game," Mancini added. "We needed the three points. It is difficult but we knew it would be two months ago."
For Wigan, who remain at the foot of the table, it was another case of what might have been.
Although it was something of a surprise for Joe Hart to be named man of the match, the City keeper had enough to do to prove Wigan were in the contest, so the ease with which the visitors got their winner was a sense of enormous frustration.
"We have to be critical," Martinez said. "It is no good saying we were playing against an outstanding team. We are frustrated and disappointed.
"Manchester City have so much talent on the ball and to concede from a soft set play is hard to take."