Manchester City survived a late scare toto maintain their Premier League title challenge.
Sterling scored twice as he struck in the 15th minute, shortly after a glaring miss, and netted again in the 63rd minute – his 17th of the season in the Premier League – to put City in firm control at Selhurst Park on Super Sunday.
It looked like a stroll for City until Luka Milivojevic converted with a low free-kick from the edge of the box in the 81st minute.
However, City avoided any further scares and Gabriel Jesus added a late third to ensure victory and put the pressure on Liverpool, wh0 responded with victory over Chelsea on Super Sunday to stay two points ahead at the top of the table, having also played a game more.
The win was City’s ninth in a row in the Premier League and rarely looked in doubt as Palace, who are 11 points clear of the relegation zone, were unable to repeat their shock 3-2 victory at the Etihad in December.
City controlled the game from the first whistle and should have taken the lead in the 10th minute when Sterling dragged a shot wide from eight yards out.
Pep Guardiola had his head in his hands after Sterling’s miss, but the England international soon made amends as he raced clear in the 15th minute and finished from Kevin De Bruyne’s fine pass.
Palace struggled to get out of their own half and Sergio Aguero shot wide before Vicente Guaita saved at the near post from Leroy Sane.
City’s best chance to extend their lead in the first half came in the 45th minute when Ilkay Gundogan’s chipped pass into the box fell to De Bruyne and he fired at Guaita from close range.
There was no respite from City after the break and it looked like they had put the result beyond doubt when they scored a second in the 63rd minute, with Sane driving across goal and Sterling finishing from 10 yards out.
However, Milivojevic set up a tense finish when he fired in a low free-kick from the edge of the box.