Liverpool remain 10 points clear at the top of the table after an enthralling battle between their two nearest rivals saw Manchester City fight back from a goal down to beat Leicester.
Pep Guardiola’s side stay third despite this impressive victory, a point behind the Foxes and 11 behind the leaders – who now have a game in hand – but this was a timely reminder of how good the defending champions are at their best.
Manchester City had to do it the hard way, falling behind to Jamie Vardy’s superbly taken breakaway goal, but inspired by a magnificent performance by Kevin de Bruyne, they roared back to take the points.
Vardy silenced Etihad Stadium when he raced on to Harvey Barnes’ pass, out-paced Fernandinho and chipped Ederson to score with Leicester’s first effort at goal.
The home side had dominated the early exchanges but, for the fourth home league game in a row, they found themselves behind and, just as in their defeat here by Manchester United, looking vulnerable to fast counter-attacks.
While that game had ended in demoralising defeat for Manchester City, this one would have a very different outcome.
Guardiola continued to urge his players forward, despite the danger posed by Vardy on the break, and they were soon level.
Riyad Mahrez, who was being half-heartedly booed by fans of his former club, cut in from the right and fired in a low shot that cannoned off Caglar Soyuncu and left Kasper Schmeichel helpless.
Leicester dug in, with Schmeichel making a series of saves to ensure the hosts had to wait to turn their vastly superior possession into further goals, but he could not delay the inevitable for long.
Three minutes before the break, Ricardo Pereira lunged in on Raheem Sterling inside the box and, after Mike Dean pointed to the spot, Ilkay Gundogan fired his penalty into the bottom corner.
Things continued in a similar pattern after half-time, with De Bruyne running the show and Leicester clinging on – knowing that while they were only one goal down they had a chance.
Mahrez and De Bruyne, who had hit the post when the score was 0-0, were unable to convert golden chances to finish the Foxes off but, fittingly, it was the Belgian who helped make the points safe with his 13th assist of the season.
He burst into the box with an unstoppable run down the right and squared for Gabriel Jesus to slide home his side’s third goal at the far post.
De Bruyne departed, exhausted, to a standing ovation just before the end and was given a huge hug by his manager, both of which were fully deserved.
The way Manchester City lost the derby earlier this month might have made some managers adopt a more conservative approach against a side with Vardy in their ranks – not Guardiola, however.
He continued to send his full-backs forward and leave centre-halves Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho to deal with the Leicester striker on his own – despite neither ever looking much like beating him in a straight foot race.
Guardiola’s approach was fully vindicated too, with his side not only dominating possession and playing slick passing football in the Foxes’ half but also creating many more chances than their opponents and ultimately outscoring them.
True, Leicester did threaten on a couple of other occasions, and went very close to an equaliser with the score at 2-1 when Barnes could not convert a Vardy cross.
But that was a risk Guardiola was willing to take with his focus on attack. Their hopes of defending their title are out of their hands now but, when his side play like this, few teams can live with them.
If the departure of Guardiola’s assistant Mikel Arteta to become Arsenal’s new manager disrupted Manchester City’s week, then they did not show it here.
With Liverpool heading to King Power Stadium on Thursday, this week was always going to define the direction of Leicester’s season – and this was obviously not the start they would have wanted.
Rodgers’ gameplan of conceding territory and possession was understandable given the weapons his side have but, with Manchester City on their game, giving them so much of the ball was asking for trouble.
Just as they did when they went to Anfield in October, Leicester made life difficult for their hosts, but created little and ended up leaving empty-handed.
The scoreline would have been more damaging if not for the performance of Schmeichel, who made a series of fine stops against his former club – the pick of the bunch coming when he clawed away a fierce Mahrez strike.
Leicester’s title challenge is far from over with this defeat – a win over the leaders would quickly regain some of the momentum they lost here and in their home draw with Norwich last weekend.
But aside from a positive result, what they really needed going into their showdown with the only team above them in the table was a performance to give them belief they can live with the very best. Being outclassed by Manchester City is unlikely to provide them with much of that.
“When the season started, no-one expected us to be there,” said Rodgers.
“There was a flash-up yesterday [on TV] about the title race and the top four. There were six players on the screen and not one of ours were there. Obviously we are not thought of as a team who can challenge for the top four, or the top six for that matter.
“We are learning. If you had asked me in August when we started ‘would you take second in the league and the semi-final of the first cup competition?’, we would have taken it and there is still so much for us to improve on.”