Match ends, Chelsea 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.
Chelsea 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte pointed to a lack of luck for his side being 13 points adrift of league leaders Manchester City after a comfortable home win over Brighton.
Conte's side recorded a sixth-straight home win after an improved second-half display against the Seagulls, with Alvaro Morata and Marcos Alonso netting the key goals.
But the Premier League champions remain third as City prepare to face Newcastle on Wednesday.
"This season is different to last season," said Conte after the match on Boxing Day. "Last season a lot of times we won games and were a bit lucky - like against West Brom here, Sunderland. This season sometimes we could have more luck.
"We have great respect for Manchester City because they are doing an extraordinary thing."
Conte's side looked lacklustre in parts during a first half in which Chris Hughton's solid 4-5-1 formation minimised the threat to two wasted chances from close range by Tiemoue Bakayoko and Victor Moses.
But Brighton were caught cold 52 seconds into the second period when Morata ran between defenders to head home Cesar Azpilicueta's fine cross.
The goal instantly changed the dynamic, lifting pressure from the home side who had repeatedly turned to the guile of Eden Hazard in attempt to break the visitors down.
But it was Alonso who sealed the win, glancing in a header moments after he was denied twice when Mat Ryan saved from a free-kick and a header.
"In the second half we settled very well and created many chances," added Conte. "It was a good performance with good intensity."
Comfortable Chelsea in hectic period
Chelsea are unbeaten at the Bridge since defeat by Manchester City on 30 September. They continue to give chase with this win, which showcased a gritty persistence in contrast to the free-flowing football which Pep Guardiola's side have served up this season.
Scintillating football was at a minimum until after the opening goal when confidence grew. Cesc Fabregas pulled strings in midfield with 108 passes, a figure matched by Azpilicueta, who has more assists than any defender in the league since the start of last season.
Hazard could have added a third on the break but for a fine goalline clearance from Lewis Dunk as Chelsea saw off a side offering resistance but minimal ambition.
Key to their success were wing-backs Alonso and Moses playing high up the pitch, while Bakayoko was pushed further forward at the break.
Conte will be thrilled with the simplicity of this win at a time when his side face three league fixtures in nine days.
The Blues are seven points worse off than after 20 league games last season but Conte can take comfort from nine wins in 12 league games. Chelsea are showing admirable consistency but City's brilliance looks set to render it meaningless.
Hope for organised Brighton?
Brighton - 12th in the table - have one win in nine league games and after Tuesday's defeat, Hughton again pointed out the need to strengthen in January.
"We need to figure a way of getting the goals we need," said Hughton. "What we will do is work as hard as we can coming up in January to strengthen the squad."
The Seagulls hope to bring in attacking options to bolster an offensive unit which has managed just 15 league goals.
They looked resolute in reducing the home side to just two good openings before the break but never married that solidity with threat.
The speedy Jose Izquierdo, deployed on the left flank, remained peripheral with more than half of his 29 touches coming in his own half.
Their set-up in recent away fixtures has delivered four straight defeats without registering a goal, as they bid for survival in their first season in the league.
But Hughton's side have already amassed 21 points and talk at this time of year sometimes sees fans and managers focus on what is considered a 40-point benchmark for safety. In recent seasons, only Wolverhampton Wanderers have needed that points haul for survival in the 2010-2011 season.
In the six seasons since, 37 points on average has kept sides up. Brighton are more than halfway to that figure and their early resilience against a form side should offer plenty of hope they can earn the points needed.
Man of the match - Cesc Fabregas
Chelsea's Spanish influence - the stats
- No team in Europe's big five leagues has seen more league goals scored by Spanish players this season than Chelsea (20, level with Real Sociedad).
- Brighton have lost four consecutive away league games without scoring a single goal for the first time since October 2002.
- Chelsea have scored 12 headed goals in the Premier League this season, more than any other side.
- Alvaro Morata has netted 12 headed goals in the big five European leagues since the start of last season, more than any other player.
Chelsea play Stoke at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (15:00 GMT) at the same time that Brighton host Newcastle.
- 7KantéSubstituted forDrinkwaterat 85'minutes
- 10E HazardSubstituted forWillianat 73'minutes
- 9MorataSubstituted forBatshuayiat 82'minutes
- 20MarchSubstituted forKnockaertat 82'minutes
- 7KayalSubstituted forGroßat 73'minutes
- 6StephensBooked at 57mins
- 10HemedSubstituted forMurrayat 80'minutes
- Mike Dean
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Chelsea 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.
Attempt missed. José Izquierdo (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Lewis Dunk.
Attempt missed. Shane Duffy (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Pascal Groß with a cross following a set piece situation.
Foul by Tiemoué Bakayoko (Chelsea).
Anthony Knockaert (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Offside, Chelsea. Antonio Rüdiger tries a through ball, but Marcos Alonso is caught offside.
Attempt missed. César Azpilicueta (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Attempt blocked. Willian (Chelsea) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Cesc Fàbregas.
Substitution, Chelsea. Daniel Drinkwater replaces N'Golo Kanté.
Attempt missed. N'Golo Kanté (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Victor Moses following a corner.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Pascal Groß.
Attempt blocked. Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by N'Golo Kanté.
Attempt blocked. Cesc Fàbregas (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Dale Stephens (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Substitution, Chelsea. Michy Batshuayi replaces Álvaro Morata.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Anthony Knockaert replaces Solly March.
Offside, Brighton and Hove Albion. Solly March tries a through ball, but Glenn Murray is caught offside.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Glenn Murray replaces Tomer Hemed.