Pep Guardiola’s side ended a lengthy wait for a Premier League victory at the Etihad Stadium after cruising past the Hornets
Pablo Zabaleta and David Silva scored to earn Manchester City a first Premier League home win since September following a 2-0 success over Watford.
Argentine defender Zabaleta opened the scoring on 33 minutes with his first goal in two years before Silva made certain of the points four minutes from time after being teed up by Raheem Sterling.
Watford produced a lacklustre display but will rue a late miss from Odion Ighalo, a rare opportunity that could have changed the match when the deficit was just one.
City’s first win in three keeps them in fourth place and within seven points of leaders Chelsea ahead of Sunday’s crunch clash at home to title rivals Arsenal.
Watford drop down to 11th in the table and have now lost four of their last six top-flight matches.
Heurelho Gomes made an early save from De Bruyne following good link-up play with Sterling, while the goalkeeper also kept out Nolito’s effort after the resulting corner fell into his path.
Nolito tested Gomes again from a tight angle as City dominated possession and probed for a breakthrough.
Watford had made four changes to their team, but Roberto Pereyra’s return from suspension did not last long as he was forced off with injury, Juan Zuniga replacing him.
City’s opening goal arrived after 33 minutes. With Nolito having worked a pass out to De Bruyne, the Belgium international floated a wonderful cross to the far post and Zabaleta volleyed in from six yards.
De Bruyne had a curling effort saved, while Yaya Toure fired over as City finished the first half firmly in control, although the hosts suffered a blow when Ilkay Gundogan limped off to be replaced by Fernando.
City were so close to a second after the break when Sterling collected Toure’s pass and surged towards the Watford box before striking the bar with his left-footed shot from 18 yards.
Guardiola’s side continued to have the better of the play, but the home crowd were growing frustrated at their failure to kill off the match.
Watford brought on Isaac Success and Troy Deeney in an attempt to change the game, but Claudio Bravo was untroubled until he kept out Etienne Capoue’s late volley.
Walter Mazzarri’s men could have claimed an unlikely point, only to waste a glorious chance when Ighalo somehow missed the target from Nordin Amrabat’s cross.
And City ensured they returned to winning ways in a counterattack with four minutes to go, Silva linking up with Sterling before confidently beating Gomes.
Manchester City 1-0 Watford | Pablo Zabaleta 33′
Manchester City 2-0 Watford | David Silva 86′