A quick start from the hosts was rewarded when Edin Dzeko's shot bobbled over the goal line for City's 100th goal in all competitions this season, but despite dominating throughout the first half, they weren't able to add to their lead before Cardiff's Craig Noone scored a shock equaliser.
The teams were level for just four minutes before Jesus Navas put the hosts back in front, and despite a less-than-stellar second-half performance, the win was wrapped up by a fine Yaya Toure goal and a strike from the returning Sergio Aguero, who scored his first Premier League goal in a month after recovering from injury.
Fraizer Campbell added another for Cardiff in stoppage time, but there was only ever going to be one winner of this game, as Manuel Pellegrini's men stayed a point behind Arsenal at the top.
Here are six lessons learned from the Etihad Stadium.
It was always a matter of when Manchester City's 100th goal of the season would come—not if. Here, Edin Dzeko took the plaudits when his 14th-minute effort squirmed over the goal line after David Silva's pull back.
Dzeko's sense of timing can't be faulted, both with the landmark goal and the fact that it was yet another sign of his importance to his club. Furthermore, it was interesting to see that Alvaro Negredo was replaced by Sergio Aguero just after the hour mark—not the Bosnian.
As far as City are concerned, after passing one landmark this season, they must now be fancied to break the record of 103 goals in a Premier League season set by Chelsea in their title-winning campaign in 2009/10. City now have 63.
The impact took a little longer than the 50 seconds it took him to score against Blackburn in the FA Cup in midweek, but Sergio Aguero's time in the Manchester City spotlight, and on the scoresheet, seemed inevitable here.
Whatever the impact of Alvaro Negredo and the form of Edin Dzeko, Aguero is always going to be City's main man. The worry for City's rivals who are hunting for the Premier League crown must be that the Argentinean has had a useful rest during one of the more hectic periods of the season.
He now looks refreshed, and defences will suffer.
Everyone loses at the Etihad Stadium—that is a given this season—and so the manner of a team's defeat becomes most crucial.
A team can get hammered, like Manchester United and Tottenham did, and let that affect results and managerial tenures down the road, or a visitor can stand up to the challenge and impress, such as Liverpool and Crystal Palace did over Christmas.
Both took positives from their performances, and Cardiff should do that too.
They stunned City with Craig Noone's well-taken equaliser, and although parity was only short-lived before Jesus Navas restored the hosts' lead, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has enough to build on ahead of the more winnable matches, despite his club slipping to the bottom of the table here.
The excellent performances of Samir Nasri this season have been a curiously under-reported aspect of Manchester City's campaign, and the Frenchman's current injury will affect the Blues in a greater manner than initially thought possible.
It will place greater goalscoring and creative responsibilities on Spaniards David Silva and Jesus Navas for one thing, and whilst we know that Silva thrives in such circumstances, this has suddenly become a crucial time for Navas in his first season in England.
If he keeps putting in performances like this one and chipping in timely goals, the former Sevilla man will be a shining star.
A subtle change has been apparent in City's bigger games of late. The return to fitness of Martin Demichelis and the form of Aleksandar Kolarov have seen the pair establish themselves at both centre and left-back in Premier League games.
Matija Nastasic, another player with injury problems, and Gael Clichy have been the losers in this, but City's sheer amount of matches at this point of the season will mean that both men will continue to get their fair amount of minutes, probably starting with West Ham in the Capital One Cup in midweek.
The decision to trust the experience of his fellow South American Demichelis, whom he coached at Malaga, is one of the more intriguing ones taken by Pellegrini during his first season in England. It could be one that he sees his season stand and fall by.
The manner in which the Argentinean was beaten by Craig Noone for Cardiff's goal suggests that the future will be interesting to watch.
The ball had barely been hooked away from inside the goal before Cardiff's players where remonstrating with referee Neil Swarbrick over the decision to award Edin Dzeko's 14th-minute strike, which gave the hosts the lead.
Except, of course, it wasn't Swarbrick's decision.
Dzeko's goal, and it was a clear goal, had been awarded via the Goal Decision System, with the referee alerted to the fact that the ball had clearly crossed the line with a buzz on his wristwatch.
What Cardiff's players didn't seem to understand is that technology doesn't have gray areas. It was either a goal or it wasn't, but will that ever stop players from arguing with referees over "their" decisions?
From crossing the line, in other words?
Don't hold your breath.