David Nugent’s 12th goal of the season helped City to a narrow victory over his former club Burnley as the Foxes signed off for 2012 with a galvanising win.
City’s leading scorer continued his fine record against the club he spent a season on loan with three years ago, pouncing with a predatory finish shortly after the half-hour to give Nigel Pearson’s men their first npower Championship win in five.
It was the third time in four games that Nugent has notched against the Clarets in a Leicester shirt and that, coupled with another resolute defensive performance from Pearson’s men on the road, was enough to keep fifth-placed City in pursuit of the sides above them in the race for promotion to the Premier League.
They will head into 2013, which begins with the visit of Huddersfield Town on Tuesday, believing a difficult run of results is now behind them and confident of kicking on during the business end of the season.
They were far from their best against Sean Dyche's Clarets, but always looked the more likely winners against opponents robbed of Charlie Austin, their talismanic leading scorer, in the game's early stages.
Burnley’s reliance on Austin this season was evident before kick-off, as the Turf Moor PA system played an audio montage of the 23 goals scored by the Clarets’ leading marksman so far this term.
Only passed fit shortly before the game following his withdrawal against Derby on Boxing Day, Austin’s departure after just eight minutes looked a sizeable blow for the hosts. The groan that greeted it from the home supporters suggested they feared the worst.
City had been steady up to that point. Refreshed by a recall for Lloyd Dyer on the left, they showed plenty of early discipline to deny the home side a fast start. Young Liam Moore, called into defence for the injured Zak Whitbread, was a figure of early composure.
Proceedings kicked into life on 17 minutes – Kasper Schmeichel watchfully shepherding a Danny Ings header wide of the post before Ben Marshall stretched Clarets ‘keeper Lee Grant after bundling his way past Daniel Lafferty and Jason Shackell down the right.
It was hardly end-to-end, but chances did materialise as Martin Paterson, Austin’s replacement, drew a comfortable save from Schmeichel on 20 minutes after good work from Dean Marney through the middle.
To that point, Nugent had been largely quiet, but the inevitability of his opening goal was not lost on home supporters that must be sick of the sight of their former loanee.
Lurking in the six-yard box as Wes Morgan, still advanced following a corner, collected Marshall’s throw into the box and created space to dig out a cross from the left, Nugent squeezed between two defenders and squeezed the ball inside Grant’s far post.
A dozen for the season for the England international and a 20th of the calendar year – a figure he will hope to match over the course of a season for the first time by May.
Dyche’s men looked to respond but it was hardly the retaliation of a wounded animal. Paterson’s clever run into the inside-left channel ended with a cross to the far post, Ross Wallace headed back into the danger zone and Ings scooped wastefully over.
Such profligacy was nearly punished on the stroke of half-time when Burnley’s defence presented Anthony Knockaert with the ball 30 yards from goal.
The Frenchman’s exchange with Nugent allowed him to feed a breaking Dyer to his left, but Kieran Trippier’s brave sliding challenge saved the hosts.
A steady start to the second half would have been top of City’s priority list and, thanks largely to Burnley’s lethargic resumption, they successfully negotiated the opening few minutes.
Nugent flashed an ambitious drive behind after some good approach work up on his own on 57 minutes.
But that appeared to shake Burnley into life and they responded swiftly – Chris McCann feeding Paterson in the right side of the box, but Paterson was denied by the legs of Schmeichel.
Dyche introduced Sam Vokes to give his side a greater attacking presence and the Wales international was only a foot off-target when directing Keith Treacy’s corner goal-wards on the hour-mark.
A decent attacking spell for City saw Grant forced to deny Ritchie De Laet from substitute Martyn Waghorn’s corner, as the game began to open up. But with Matty James and Danny Drinkwater largely bossing the middle third, the visitors always looked the stronger side.
Moore showed the courage of a lion to slide in and block Ings’ powerful drive on the edge of the box 14 minutes from time and when the former Bournemouth forward did find a way round Moore four minutes later, Schmeichel stood up tall to deny him.
With the hosts applying pressure, City were always likely to threaten on the break. De Laet led such a siege with nine minutes to go, feeding three men joining him to his left, but Dyer’s shot was repelled by the strong hands of Grant.
Substitute Marko Futacs nearly rubber stamped the win in stoppage time with a rasping drive that hit the top of the crossbar and late chances started to materialise.
Paterson hooked the ball straight at Schmeichel with perhaps the hosts’ best chance, before Grant saved brilliantly from Marshall after more good work from the foraging Futacs.
Burnley (4-2-3-1): Grant; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Lafferty; Marney, McCann; Wallace (Vokes 57), Ings, Treacy (Stock 83); Austin (Paterson 8).
Unused subs: Jensen, Edgar, O’Neill, Bartley.
Booked: Duff, Trippier
City (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; De Laet, Morgan (c), Moore, Konchesky; James, Drinkwater; Marshall, Knockaert (Waghorn 61), Dyer (Gallagher 82); Nugent (Futacs 86).
Unused subs: King, Logan, Keane, Schlupp, Futacs.
Goals: Nugent 31
Booked: Dyer, Drinkwater
Referee: Michael Naylor (South Yorkshire)