Chelsea 1-0 Everton
Chelsea kept up the momentum and the seven-point gap over Manchester City – but it took them 89 minutes to find a winner.
A vital strike by Willian, with 69 seconds of the 90 minutes to go was the beating of the returning Tim Howard – who looked for all the world like he could shut anything and everything out.
Chelsea, for their part, looked less accomplished than in other recent games without Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa – but ultimately Jose Mourinhho will be delighted that didn't cost them.
There was a first start for new signing Juan Cuadrado – who spent much of the night on the right. He showed confidence and ability, if a need to properly adapt to Chelsea's game.
Thibaut Courtois was surprisingly 'rested'– according to Mourinho, merely the flexing of a rotation policy that enabled Petr Cech to get a game, while Kurt Zuma and Loic Remy came in for Gary Cahill and Didier Drogba – as expected.
The first half was an exercise in Chelsea domination. They bossed the midfield through a commanding Nemanja Matic, and took the ball forward well.
But it was in the final quarter that things didn't really happen – and by the time the break came they had hardly bothered Tim Howard – back after a long injury lay-off.
Chelsea upped the pressure.
A Nemanja Matic free kick sailed over the wall and was headed for the right corner – until Howard got there first.
A Willian shot from the left was also saved by the American.
Everton had their own opportunity, when a Bryan Oviedo cross picked out Romeu Lukaku for a first time shot from close range – only a lightning quick reaction saw Cech keep it out with his feet.
Late in the game Gareth Barry saw red for a second caution, and there followed a melee in which referee Jonathan Moss went card crazy.
But Blues took advantage of the mayhem, and were a goal up within the minute.
Howard punched clear a ball in the box, but only as far as Willian – who fired in from distance, and quickly found himself under a pile of bodies.
Another vital win, particularly with City's three points at Stoke. Chelsea have weathered the storm – Fabregas was a late sub here, and Costa's ban is over. And they are still sitting pretty at the very top.
Blues, Cech; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Cuadrado (Fabregas 70), Willian (Cahill 90), Hazard; Remy (Drogba 70); subs not used: Courtois, Ake, Filipe Luis, Loftus-Cheek