Aston Villa 1–2 Chelsea
Chelsea went seven points clear at the top of the Premier League thanks to a stuttering three points at Villa Park – and a slip by rivals Manchester City at home to Hull.
Blues looked well below table topping quality, but they beat the side they were up against – and did so at one of their unhappiest hunting grounds of recent seasons.
Jose Mourinho's two big decisions were who to pick at centre half and centre forward – and he went for Gary Cahill over Kurt Zouma, and Didier Drogba over Loic Remy. There was a feeling both might have been made with half an eye on Wednesday's visit of Everton to Stamford Bridge.
There was a great start, with Chelsea taking the lead after just seven minutes.
Drogba fed a ball out to Oscar – who chased it down the right flank. He squared to Willian, who in turn provided for Eden Hazard on the far post – one-nil.
Chelsea thought they could have had a penalty later in the half – Aly Cissokho apparently blocking a shot on goal with his outstretched arm – but referee Neil Swarbrick disagreeing.
Chelsea spent much of the rest of the half dominating, but failing to take their chances. And while their hosts threatened little, there seemed to be a lack of communication between the Blues' defenders.
They paid for that just after the break – almost inviting Villa in to score their first Premier League goal after a mammoth 660 minute dry spell.
Following on form a failure to adequately deal with a Villa corner, Oscar watched Carles Gill put the ball back in for the rising Jores Okore to head home.
In a ground where the fans behind the visiting keeper had taken to holding up arrows pointing at his goal, for the assistance of their own forwards, the celebrations were unsurprisingly joyful.
Chelsea regained the lead on 66 minutes.
Cesar Azpiliceta, on the left side of the Villa box, had three attempts at crossing the ball – it rebounding back to him off an opponent each time.
When he got a grip on it, he got it spot-on: out to the far right corner of the box, and to Branislav Ivanovic – who volleyed in.
The final 20 minutes were old-style Mourinho, as John Mikel Obi was brought on to help grind out the result. And, with news of the score in Manchester, the visiting support did not dull their own jubilation.
Seven points, plus a goal difference easily worth another – how important a day in the story of this season's title race may this yet prove to be?