Substitute Romelu Lukaku inspired Chelsea as they came from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-1 at Villa Park.
Reece James’ first-half own goal had given Villa the lead but Jorginho converted a penalty soon afterwards after Matty Cash’s foul before Lukaku turned the game from the bench.
He headed Chelsea in front within 11 minutes of his introduction and then burst through late on to win another penalty that was once again scored by Jorginho.
Villa boss Steven Gerrard was missing after testing positive for Covid-19 but Thomas Tuchel’s presence was certainly felt with that bold half-time substitution, removing Trevor Chalobah to bring on his striker.
The attacking change earned the three points and ensured Chelsea finished the day level on points with Liverpool but still six points adrift of leaders Manchester City.
City’s emphatic 6-3 win over Leicester City earlier in the day had opened the gap on Chelsea to nine points at kick-off, a series of draws having undermined their title charge.
Villa appeared to fancy their chances from the outset, starting brightly while Chelsea struggled to find space in behind, with Mason Mount’s cross-shot their best early opening.
The home side were rewarded for their enterprise start in unusual fashion when Matt Targett’s cross skimmed off the head of James, looping beyond goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
The Frenchman should probably have done better, going for the ball with both hands when one might have sufficed, but Chelsea were soon level after an error at the other end.
Callum Hudson-Odoi snuck in behind Cash who lunged for the ball and got the man. The full-back had his head in his hands almost before the referee had pointed to the spot.
Emi Martinez attempted to disrupt Jorginho’s penalty preparation and received a yellow card for his antics but the Chelsea midfielder sent him the wrong way with his kick.
It was a fifth penalty in six games for Jorginho, Chelsea’s top scorer last season and this, but goals up front have been the issue and Lukaku’s introduction addressed that immediately.
Bringing him on for Chalobah at half-time was a statement of intent and Lukaku, who has not started a Premier League game since October, soon altered the game’s momentum.
His clever movement allowed him to evade Tyrone Mings and beat the Villa captain to Callum Hudson-Odoi’s left-wing cross, nodding beyond Martinez low into the net.
Suddenly, Chelsea had a focal point and Mount should have doubled the advantage within minutes, uncharacteristically dragging his shot wide of the near post after beating Martinez.
It did not prove costly with Villa unable to generate any attacking pressure on the Chelsea defence. Mendy did not make his first save until late in the game and it was an easy one.
Jorginho had the final word with his second penalty of the game but only after Lukaku had underlined his impact by winning it – bursting through before being hauled down by Ezri Konsa.
He may have returned just in time to keep Chelsea dreaming of the title.