Isobel Christiansen scored the winner as Manchester City beat Sunderland to go second in Women's Super League One on goal difference.
The midfielder netted just after the half hour mark with a header, following a cross from Krystle Johnston.
Brooke Chaplen and Abbey Joice had Sunderland's best chances but City keeper Karen Bardsley kept them at bay.
Steph Houghton went close to doubling the home side's lead when her powerful header was saved by Rachael Laws.
The game marked the return of City's Welsh winger Natasha Harding, who had missed the last nine matches with an ankle injury.
However Lucy Bronze was an unused substitute and England team-mate Toni Duggan missed the game after both players picked up ankle injuries last weekend against Liverpool.
While still mathematically possible, the result leaves Sunderland's title chances hanging by a thread as they now drop to six points behind leaders Chelsea with two games still to play.
Manchester City Women manager Nick Cushing told BBC Sport:
"In periods I thought our possession was good and I thought our defensive side and our commitment was probably the most pleasing thing.
"When you've got a number nine in form and scoring like Beth Mead is, that brings real danger.
"We prepare to be defensively organised when we have the ball and I thought the team showed that today with the clean sheet which I'm really pleased with."
Sunderland Ladies manager Carlton Fairweather told BBC Sport:
"It was a good performance from the girls and we caused them problems.
"We created one or two clear cut chances and we've probably not had that extra bit of luck that we need.
"If we can carry on playing like that and creating chances in the next couple of games, hopefully we can get something from them."
Manchester City: Bardsley, McManus, Beattie, Houghton, Stokes, Walsh, Scott, Christiansen, Johnston, Stanway (Flint 63), Harding.
Subs not used: Brooks, Broughman, Lipman, Radtke, Bronze.
Sunderland: Laws, Holmes, Bannon, Williams, Greenwell, Furness, McDougal (McFadden 84), Ramshaw (Kelly 75), Chaplen, Joice, Mead.
Subs not used: Olsen, Beer, Roche, Wilson.
Referee: Natalie Aspinall