Tammy Abraham scored the second half winner that saw off plucky Crystal Palace 3-2 at Selhurst Park this evening, but a late rally almost saw the Eagles nab a late equaliser as the Blues tired visibly.
Chelsea move up to third in the Premier League ahead of Leicester City’s match against Arsenal later tonight.
The west Londoners twice led by two goals, but each time resolute Eagles pulled a goal back to keep themselves in the game.
Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic put Chelsea into a two-goal lead before Wilfried Zaha produced a blockbuster to halve the deficit.
Abraham’s strike restored the advantage but Christian Benteke tapped home the second to set up a nervy finish at Selhurst Park, with Palace piling forward.
And they almost struck the equaliser when a header from Scott Dann crashed off the post and was cleared. Then Benteke raced clear only to be denied by a powerful Kurt Zouma tackle four minutes into added time.
A terrible kick out by Kepa on two minutes saw the ball fall to James McArthur, but the midfielder failed to capitalise on the gift and screwed his shot well wide of the visors goal.
Disaster befell Palace on five minutes when a quick break by Chelsea saw Willian free on the right. However Gary Cahill, covering collapsed on the ground - with what looks like a hamstring injury to his left leg. Willian crashed into the penalty area and then slide the ball to Olivier Giroud who slotted home to put the Blues 1-0 up.
Cahill was helped off the pitch with Mamadou Sakho taking his place.
A brilliant training ground corner almost produced number two for the west Londoners as Kurt Zouma latched o to Willian’s deep drive, but the Frenchman planted his downward header inches wide of Vincente’s Guaita’s right post.
Seconds after the drinks’ break, on 27 minutes, Willian cut across the edge of the Palace penalty area. He passed the ball to his left to in-running Christian Pulisic, who took one touch and thumped a venomous left-footer that zipped past Guaita to double the visitors’ lead.
Pulisic repaid Willian with a similar pass on 32 minutes. This time Guaita got a firm hand on the first time cross by Willian and the ball was parried away for a corner.
Out of nothing the home side pulled a goal back and it was from the right boot of Wilfried Zaha, who took advantage of a poor intercepted pass by Reece James and the winger raced 20 yards forward. He then unleashed the shot of the season as he arrowed home the perfect rasping right-footer past Kepa from 30 yards out to halve the deficit on 34 minutes.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
But The Blues should have extended their lead on 54 minutes when a brilliant byline cross from James was met, unchallenged by Giroud, who somehow managed to put his header, from close range over the Palace crossbar.
That miss was the last action for the France striker who was replaced by Tammy Abraham on 65 minutes alongside Ross Barkley who came off for Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Once again, straight from the drinks’ break the Blues struck again. Loftus-Cheek powered through the centre of the Eagles half, before setting up Abraham on the right. The striker produced a smart, low, right-footer that went across Guaita and into the back of the neck.
But seconds later the home side pulled another goal back. The Chelsea defence went asleep and Patrick van Aanholt clipped across a business pass and Christian Benteke had the simplest of chance to tap home, unchallenged from the six-yard box.
Jorginho came on for Billy Gilmour on 80 minutes. While Roy Hodgson replaced McArthur with Andros Townsend and Ayew with James McCarthey.
Chelsea enjoyed a strong period of pressure and were almost reward with Mason Mount’s low left-footer but Guaita, dived to his right to tip the ball away for a corner.
Max Meyer entered the fray for the south Londoners, Luka Milivojevic made way with a minute left on the clock.
Teams: Crystal Palace
Guaita, Ward, Van Aanholt, Milivojevic, Dann, Kouyate, Ayew, Zaha, Benteke, McArthur, Cahill
Subs: Hennessey, Meyer, Townsend, Sao, McCarthy, Woods, Mitchell, Brandon Keutcha, Riedewald
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Christensen, Barkley, Willian, Zouma, Giroud, Mount, Pulisic, James, Azpilicueta, Gilmour
Subs: Caballero, Rudiger, Alonso, Jorginho, Abraham, Pedro, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, Batshuayi