ALBION’S four-game unbeaten home record came to an end against in-form goal machine Manchester City.
The visitors arrived at The Hawthorns on the back of blitzing Tottenham and Swansea with nine strikes in their last two games.
And they took just nine minutes to make it an uphill task for the Baggies when Sergio Aguero fired his 11th Barclays Premier League goal of the campaign.
Yaya Toure doubled the lead just 15 minutes later and Steve Clarke’s men were grateful to keep it at two heading into the break.
But the Baggies never gave up the ghost, without making any real clear-cut chances, before Toure made it 3-0 from the penalty spot on 74.
The hosts did grab the consolation of a Costel Pantilimon own goal in the 85th minute and Victor Anichebe’s first Albion goal four minutes into stoppage time.
Clarke made three changes to his starting line-up – two enforced – as Steven Reid, Claudio Yacob and Saido Berahino came in for the injured Billy Jones, suspended Youssouf Mulumbu and benched Stephane Sessegnon respectively.
Manuel Pellegrini drafted in Vincent Kompany, Aleksandar Kolarov and Edin Dzeko as he also made a trio of changes.
City did not take long to get their flowing football going and on six Edin Dzeko chested the ball down for Aguero in the box and he flashed a low shot inches wide of the far post from eight yards.
It was only a temporary reprieve for the hosts as three minutes later, Dzeko slotted Pablo Zabaleta in behind the Baggies defence and he pulled the ball back for Aguero to make amends for his earlier miss by smashing home to give Pellegrini’s men the lead.
Albion’s first effort on goal came in the 16th minute when Berahino fired a 25-yard shot just wide of Pantilimon’s right-hand post.
The Baggies were struggling to get a foothold in the game and on 24 found themselves 2-0 down as Kolarov broke down the left and centred low for Yaya Toure to slide the ball past Boaz Myhill from six yards.
Myhill made a brilliant save to ensure the lead only remained at two in the 34th minute. Aguero raced free of Jonas Olsson and forced the Baggies goalkeeper to swoop low to his right to finger-tip the Argentine’s drive past the far post.
Two minutes later, Fernandinho missed a golden opportunity as he volleyed Aguero’s pass well over from 15 yards.
Clarke’s troops started causing City some serious problems towards the end of the half and on 39 James Morrison lost the ball on the edge of the box. The ball broke for Berahino, whose goalbound left-foot shot was blocked by Kompany’s sliding challenge.
Moments later, Morrison’s slide-rule pass put Chris Brunt in the clear down the left and he cut the ball back for Long, who dallied and was dispossessed by Kompany before he could get his shot away.
Myhill was alert to the danger at the start of the second half as he raced off his line to take Jesus Navas’ right-wing cross off Dzeko’s head.
The Baggies made strong appeals for a penalty on 50 – but referee Chris Foy ignored them adjudging Kolarov to have got a faint touch on the ball before making contact with Long inside the box.
Clarke made a double change on 64 as Morrison and Long made way for Zoltan Gera, who received a hero’s welcome on his return to Hawthorns action after long-term injury, and Anichebe.
Five minutes later, that was followed by Pellegrini bringing on the more defence-minded James Milner for Aguero.
Any lingering hopes Albion had of pinching something from the game disappeared on 74 when Toure lashed home from the penalty spot after Foy adjudged Yacob to have tripped Kolarov just inside the area.
At the other end, Berahino was unfortunate to see his deflected shot loop just over the bar on 83.
Two minutes later, a neat one-two between sub Matej Vydra and Berahino saw the former fire the ball into the six-yard box where Kolarov – under pressure from Gera – kicked the ball towards his own goal and Pantilimon could only knock it in to give the Baggies a consolation.
Albion came close to grabbing a second 90 seconds from the end but Pantilimon flung himself to his right to palm Berahino’s curling effort away.
Four minutes into stoppage time, Vydra turned provider again as he fed Anichebe on the edge of the box and he spun Martin Demichelis before burying the ball past Pantilimon.
But it was too little, too late for the Baggies.
ALBION (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob, Brunt (c); Amalfitano (Vydra 76), Morrison (Gera 64), Berahino; Long (Anichebe 64). Subs not used: L Daniels (gk), Lugano, Popov, Sessegnon.
MAN CITY (4-4-2): Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov; Navas, Fernandinho, Y Toure (Rodwell 88), Nasri (Garcia 76); Aguero (Milner 69), Dzeko. Subs not used: Hart (gk), Lescott, Richards, Negredo.
GOALS: ALBION – Pantilimon (og 85), Anichebe (90+4). CITY – Aguero (9), Toure (24, pen 74).
BOOKINGS: ALBION – Olsson (foul 88). CITY – Pantilimon (time wasting 84).
REFEREE: C Foy (Merseyside).
ALBION STARMAN: Claudio Yacob.