Having managed just one point from their previous two league matches, Manuel Pellegrini's team looked for much of the game as if they were about to be frustrated once again.

But with 20 minutes left, Toure touched in from a couple of yards to keep City, who lost substitute Stevan Jovetic to injury, three points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand.

Stoke's run of away league matches without a win was stretched to 12, but former City manager Mark Hughes's team certainly provided his old club with an afternoon of anxiety at the Etihad Stadium.

If the hosts were hoping for a straightforward run-out following the disappointment of losing to Barcelona in the Champions League, they were disappointed by a determined start from Stoke.

Stoke were creating the better chances and from a free-kick into the area, Peter Crouch headed down and Jon Walters laid off for Charlie Adam to thump a low effort narrowly wide.

From a Geoff Cameron cross, Marko Arnautovic clipped a pass back for Adam to launch another fierce effort that was pushed wide by Hart.

Toure had a curling effort stopped by Asmir Begovic and Samir Nasri saw a shot deflected over as the home side attempted to shake off their lethargy.

After finally showing some passing rhythm on the edge of the Stoke area, Toure swapped passes with Alvaro Negredo before driving just past the top corner.

Dzeko also curled narrowly wide after exchanging passes with Negredo 25 yards out and Fernandinho's low strike was held by Begovic.

After the interval, Toure thumped a free-kick straight into the wall as the home side's frustration grew before Pellegrini threw on Jovetic for Negredo, who had been struggling with a shoulder problem.

Jovetic finally forced a save from Begovic when his powerful drive was held at the second attempt by the goalkeeper.

It was to be the Montenegro striker's final act, as he limped off just 11 minutes after coming on to add another miserable note to his injury-hit debut season.

However, moments later the home side moved in front when Navas worked the ball to the right and Kolarov's low cross was turned in by Toure for his 16th goal of the season.

Dzeko's difficult day continued regardless when he was picked out at the far post by a Navas cross and his right-foot flick bounced away off his left leg.

The home side continued to press and Begovic had to turn a strike from Javi Garcia around the post.

City worked another opening when Silva played a pass through for Toure, but Erik Pieters denied the home side a second goal with a fine sliding challenge.

Stephen Ireland drove wide for the visitors in added time, but Toure's goal proved enough for Pellegrini's team to secure a potentially important victory.