Manchester United looked set to close the gap on its city rival after goals by Edin Dzeko and David Silva had been canceled out by Jay Bothroyd and Heidar Helguson, but Toure headed in Alexsandr Kolarov’s left-wing cross to secure a 10th win from 11 league games.
United beat Sunderland 1-0 to mark Alex Ferguson’s 25th anniversary as manager, while Chelsea kept in touch with the leading sides with a 1-0 win at Blackburn.
Former United defender Wes Brown headed a first-half own-goal, but Ferguson’s 1,409th game was more notable for his club’s announcement that it had renamed Old Trafford’s north stand after him than for anything the players managed on the field.
Frank Lampard’s 50th-minute header and a first clean sheet since the opening day of the season kept the Blues within four points of second-place United. Newcastle remained unbeaten in third place after a 2-1 win over Everton, while Arsenal’s resurgence continued with a 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.
QPR, which beat Chelsea 1-0 in its last home match, surprised City by taking the lead at Loftus Road. Bothroyd followed last weekend’s goal at Tottenham with another header, knocking in Joey Barton’s 28th-minute free kick for his first home goal of the season.
But the lead lasted only 15 minutes as Dzeko collected a pass by James Milner and evaded Anton Ferdinand before shooting low into the bottom corner for his 10th league goal of the season, just one fewer than Arsenal striker Robin van Persie’s leading tally.
Silva put City ahead for the first time seven minutes into the second half, taking a pass from Dzeko and deceiving the QPR defense by shaping to shoot, taking a touch and then firing in a low shot past goalkeeper Paddy Kenny.
Helguson equalized from close range, inadvertently touching in Bothroyd’s goal-bound header, but Toure clinched a win that took unbeaten City to 31 points.
An unremarkable game at Old Trafford was settled in the final minute of the first half when defender Wes Brown headed into his own net on his first return to his former club since leaving in July.
“It was a long day,” Ferguson said. “I was worried we wouldn’t play well. I thought we were anxious. Sometimes these emotional occasions—which for me it was—get through to them.”
Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson had a shot deflected behind by Patrice Evra and United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard pushed away Nicklas Bendtner’s effort from the edge of the area before the home side found its range.
Phil Jones volleyed over the bar, Sunderland keeper Keiran Westwood blocked Nani’s effort from a tight angle and Nani then sent over the cross that Brown headed into his own net under pressure from Danny Welbeck.
United announced its tribute to Ferguson moments ahead of its longest serving manager’s 1,409th game with the northwest England club.
Ferguson saw the new sign on the stand for the first time after walking onto the pitch through a guard of honor formed by the two teams.
“I never expected that,” Ferguson said. “It was a real surprise. I have to thank Manchester United for doing that.”
A crowd of 75,570 gave Ferguson an ovation in recognition of 27 major titles including 12 Premier Leagues and two Champions League trophies. Ferguson reaches his quarter century as manager on Sunday.
Until Lampard’s goal against Blackburn, the most notable incidents at Ewood Park were a banner proclaiming “Steve Kean Out!” fluttering behind a plane flying over the stadium and a bloody nose sustained in a collision by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
“He was in some difficulty but Petr is very prone to these kinds of incidents,” Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas said. “He has had collisions with his head, concussion and now a broken nose.
“We asked him at halftime did he want to continue. It shows the commitment and bravery of this player who has suffered a lot with this type of injury.”
With Blackburn fans unhappy with the team’s performance under manager Kean, only 21,985 turned up for Saturday’s match.
Lampard stooped to head in Branislav Ivanovic’s low cross for his sixth league goal of the season, although struggling Rovers had numerous late chances to claim at least a draw.
Van Persie opened the scoring for Arsenal against West Brom from close range in the 22nd minute after Theo Walcott’s shot had been parried, and then cut the ball back for defender Thomas Vermaelen to score the second goal in the 39th. The Netherlands striker also then provided the pass for Mikel Arteta to complete the scoring in the 74th.
Arsenal remained seventh but moved level on 19 points with sixth-place Liverpool, which failed to capitalize on its early domination and drew 0-0 against Swansea. West Brom stayed 13th.
Ryan Taylor’s spectacular 29th-minute half-volley over goalkeeper Tim Howard proved to be the difference between Newcastle and visiting Everton. Taylor’s goal made it 2-0 after John Heitinga’s own-goal had put the home side ahead in the 12th.
Jack Rodwell got a goal back for Everton in first-half injury time but, despite losing Yohan Cabaye and Sylvain Marveaux to injury, Newcastle held out in the second half to maintain the Premier League’s best defensive record with just eight goals conceded.
“It was one of those games today where we got disrupted,” manager Alan Pardew said. “We lost two key players, but the guys who came on did well. It shows another side of us, that we have strength in depth.
“It was one of our best defensive performances. We had that disruption and we lost our rhythm but we kept ball and were clever.”
Darren Bent scored twice to give Aston Villa a 3-2 win over Norwich in the day’s other match.
Tottenham is at London rival Fulham on Sunday, when Bolton hosts Stoke and Wolverhampton Wanderers hosts fellow struggler Wigan.
Southampton stayed top of the second-tier League Championship with a 4-2 win at Coventry, with second-place West Ham winning 2-0 at Hull. Third-place Middlesbrough beat Watford 1-0.