A LATE Juan Mata goal gave Chelsea a vital win over Manchester United and put them back in pole position in the scrap for third place.
A dull and mostly lifeless afternoon was enlivened by the 87th minute goal which puts Blues one point ahead of Arsenal, and three ahead of fourth placed Tottenham.
Avoid defeat against Spurs at Stamford Bridge at Wednesday night, and Champions League qualification is as good as done.
Chelsea had two early chances which both fell to Demba Ba – the forward failing to control either cross from the right, in a pointer towards what would be a forgettable afternoon for him.
Chelsea looked slightly more up for the contest: running well at the Champions who, in return, looked a little leaden in their step.
Oscar took the ball fully 40 yards down the inside right channel, and shot between a defender's legs – only for Anders Lindegaard to push the shot onto the post, then collect.
But overall, the tenor of the first half was all about slumber, and dreams of the summer to come.
Chelsea tried to up the tempo again after the break. One such attempt saw David Luiz beat Ryan Giggs, go for the box, and get shoved over by the veteran Welshman.
Not a penalty – clearly the wrong side of the line for that – but referee Howard Webb missed the infringement.
That aside the game remained flat. Both managers tried to mix things up, with a change of personnel.
Lampard flicked up a floating ball that would have broken the stalemate, were the recipient not Juan Mata – one of the shortest men on on the pitch.
But Mata was yet to have his, and the game's, key moment.
With three minutes of the 90 remaining, Ramires made what looked like a futile back-heel just inside the box.
The ball was picked up by Oscar, who sent a cross to Mata on the left: the Spaniard's low diagonal shot taking the tiniest of deviations of Nemanja Vidic, before going in off Lindegaard's glove and the post.
A vital goal, from one of Chelsea's most vital of players.
In the dying minutes Rafael Da Silva saw red for a needless hack on Luiz, and Chelsea's afternoon was complete.
Blues' destiny is now well and truly in their own hands. Concentration will be the key.