(CNN) -- Jose Mourinho is the king of football gamesmanship, but his constant declarations that Chelsea's English Premier League lead is "fake" appear to be becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Saturday's controversial defeat at Aston Villa allowed Manchester City to close to within six points, with three games in hand on the London club and a vastly superior goal difference.
City bounced back from the midweek European Champions League exit in Barcelona by winning 2-0 at Hull, despite having influential captain Vincent Kompany sent off in just the 10th minute.
Mourinho was also sent to the stands at Villa Park, following second-half red cards to Chelsea midfielders Willian and Ramires.
Willian's second booking seemed harsh, but -- after Fabian Delph put Villa ahead with a delightful backheel flick -- his fellow Brazilian deserved to go after a vicious tackle on Karim El Ahmadi.
Referee Chris Foy has now issued six red cards to Chelsea players in the last eight of the club's matches in which he has officiated -- and Mourinho was fighting to keep his feelings hidden afterwards in fear of being punished by the authorities.
"I prefer not to speak about the decisions. If I speak I am in big trouble," he said after his team's 14-match unbeaten run was ended by a Villa side that moved up to 10th place.
"The referees do what they do. They go home and they don't talk to the press, and they refuse even to exchange a couple of words, when one person like me -- that is in football for so long -- asks politely, 'Can you speak with me for five seconds?'
"I ask five seconds to make one simple question and I had no chance because I was sent to the stands.
"It's difficult to close the mouth, it's very difficult but I have to do it because I don't want to bring the game into disrepute."
Manchester City moved up to second place, but Liverpool and Arsenal could trim Chelsea's lead to four points on Sunday with victories in crunch clashes against rivals Manchester United and Tottenham respectively.
It was a difficult start to a big week for Chelsea, whose European Champions League hopes will be tested by Tuesday's visit of Galatasaray ahead of next weekend's home clash with Arsenal.
City host the EPL's bottom team Fulham next Saturday ahead of the Manchester derby at Old Trafford and a trip to Arsenal.
"I think it was a very good response from the team. It was a very difficult week," City boss Manuel Pellegrini said of his team's win after Kompany was dismissed for bringing down Nikica Jelavic.
"I thought before it was clear foul by Jelavic before Vincent did his foul -- but the referee didn't see it, he saw the foul of Kompany and he sent him off."
Everton closed to within two points of fifth-placed Tottenham with a 2-1 win at home to second-bottom Cardiff, and Roberto Martinez's team have a game in hand on the Londoners.
Southampton moved up to eighth with a 4-2 win over Norwich, while Newcastle dropped down after losing 1-0 at Fulham.
Stoke joined Villa on 34 points with a 3-1 win at home to West Ham, as former Nigeria striker Peter Odemwingie scored twice.
Sunderland stayed in the bottom three after drawing 0-0 with fellow strugglers Crystal Palace, but West Brom moved three points away from the relegation zone by winning 2-1 at Swansea.
The previous day West Brom sacked Nicolas Anelka after the former France international said he had terminated his own contract in reaction to the club's response to his fine and ban for performing a controversial "quenelle" gesture during a match in December.