Match ends, Chelsea 2, Crystal Palace 1.
Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace
Chelsea revived their hopes of a top-four Premier League finish as they got back to winning ways with a victory over lowly Crystal Palace.
The Blues remain fifth but their win saw Antonio Conte's team narrow the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham to two points - at least until Spurs play Bournemouth on Sunday.
Brazil winger Willian opened the scoring for the hosts, aided by a deflection off Palace defender Martin Kelly, with a shot that crept inside the left-hand post.
Chelsea spurned several excellent openings before doubling their advantage, again thanks to significant chunk of good fortune.
Kelly was again involved, with the former Liverpool player initially doing well to clear Davide Zappacosta's drive off his own goal line - only for the ball to ricochet off Eagles goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and strike Kelly before entering the net.
Eden Hazard had a goal disallowed for offside and Chelsea's profligacy threatened to give Roy Hodgson's team a route back into the match.
Patrick van Aanholt's late goal briefly raised their hopes, but Conte's side held on with Palace remaining in the bottom three.
Chelsea back in business
After defeats to both Manchester clubs had weakened their grip on a Champions League place, this represented a welcome three points for Chelsea, who dominated proceedings from start to finish.
Conte had been heavily criticised in the aftermath of their defeat by Manchester City last Sunday for showing a lack of ambition, underlined by his decision play without a centre-forward.
On Saturday, though, the return of Olivier Giroud - starting his third game for the Blues since his transfer from Arsenal in January - provided a welcome focal point.
It also released Hazard to occupy his customary position on the left of a considerably more fluent Chelsea attack that was bolstered by Willian's strong running.
Only miraculous defending from James Tomkins prevented the France forward from capping his display with his first league goal for the Blues.
Giroud continued in the same vein after the break, posing a threat and linking with Chelsea's midfield until his withdrawal.
Tellingly, when Conte did decide to withdraw him, he retained the shape of his team by introducing another forward in the form of Alvaro Morata. By the time his team conceded a late goal they had peppered the Palace goal with 27 shots and more than merited their win.
Formation backfires on Palace
Chelsea capitalised on Roy Hodgson's decision to deploy a conventional 4-4-2 formation. Cesc Fabregas and N'Golo Kante controlled the central areas against the visitors, who were also outnumbered when Willian and Hazard dropped deep to collect the ball.
With neither Christian Benteke nor Alexander Sorloth offering any support, it left James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic badly exposed and unable to get close enough to apply any pressure onto their opposite numbers.
The hosts enjoyed 68.5% possession in the first half en route to establishing a two-goal advantage.
In contrast, the visitors - who were profligate when they did gain possession of the ball - mustered just two efforts on the Chelsea goal and both missed the target.
Despite a late rally, draws against West Ham and Newcastle now seem an age ago for the Eagles.
Their relative success in both those fixtures was anchored to fielding a five-man midfield and supporting a lone forward with pace in the form of Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha.
Since the decision to utilise a second central striker, they have suffered four consecutive defeats - to Everton, Tottenham, Manchester United and now Chelsea.
Man of the match - Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)
'We deserved to win'
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte speaking to BT Sport:
On his sides's performance: "We created a lot of chances to score a lot of goals today. We conceded 2-1 at the end and there's a bit of pressure, but did well to keep the ball high up the pitch way from our box.
"We deserved to win. We played a good game, especially in the first half, against a good Crystal Palace. They are a good team fighting a lot to avoid relegation."
On scuppered chances: "We tried to finish the game, but I think their goalkeeper made good saves and we hit the post. For sure, when you have so many chances it is important to be clinical - but we must be pleased with the performance of the team and prepare for Barcelona."
On Giroud: "Olivier was unlucky. Two clear chances to score - he hit the post and another was a deflection by the defender - but his commitment was good for the team and we have to continue in this way."
On Barcelona preparations: "We have to prepare for that game in the right ways They are a strong team, the game will be totally different compared to today, but we have three days to decide with the players the right plan."
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson speaking to BT Sport:
On his team's performance: "I was very disappointed in the first half. [It wasn't] the football I know we can play. We were not aggressive enough, we gave them too much space and they scored two goals.
"The second half was better, much more like performances I've been seeing and we can count ourselves a little unlucky. We had a goal chalked off from Sorloth - on another day maybe that isn't.
"We were taking the game to Chelsea late on and asking questions of them to the point that they had to waste a bit of time at the end."
On his opponents: "The quality of their passing was fantastic, particularly from Fabregas. It's that quality they're capable of showing that gave them a 2-0 lead. If we try to attack and open ourselves up we're in danger on the counter from players like Hazard and Willian, who are very quick. I'm more satisfied with the second-half performance."
On Zaha's return: "Great to have him back. We need to be careful. He's a wonderful footballer who makes us better, but we can't think we'll be fine because he's back, he's one player out of 11. He's a footballer, not a magician."
Willian's best return for Chelsea
- Chelsea posted 27 shots in this game - their most in a Premier League game this season and since 21 May 2017 against Sunderland (28).
- Chelsea have now conceded just five goals in their past 10 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge.
- Crystal Palace have won just two points in their past seven Premier League matches.
- This was the 10th game this season that Zaha has not started for Crystal Palace in the Premier League - they have not won a single point in any of these games.
- Willian has now scored 13 goals for Chelsea this season - his best return in a single campaign for the club.
- Willian has had a hand in 17 goals in his past 18 starts for Chelsea in all competitions (12 goals, five assists).
- Van Aanholt's consolation goal for Palace was the 800th scored in the Premier League this season.
Chelsea travel to Barcelona on Wednesday in the Champions League to play the second leg of their last-16 tie (kick-off 19:45 GMT). The first game ended in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Conte's team return to domestic action on Sunday 18 March when they face Leicester City in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in the East Midlands (16:30 GMT), their fourth game away from home in the last five.
Crystal Palace are out of the FA Cup but they are in league action next weekend when they play Huddersfield at the John Smith's Stadium on Saturday (15:00 GMT).
- 4FàbregasSubstituted forPedroat 88'minutes
- 10E HazardSubstituted forBakayokoat 88'minutes
- 18GiroudSubstituted forMorataat 72'minutesBooked at 86mins
- 5TomkinsBooked at 86mins
- 3van AanholtBooked at 59mins
- 10TownsendSubstituted forLeeat 81'minutes
- 15SchluppSubstituted forRiedewaldat 75'minutes
- 17BentekeSubstituted forZahaat 45'minutes
- Anthony Taylor
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Chelsea 2, Crystal Palace 1.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Patrick van Aanholt.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Patrick van Aanholt.
Goal! Chelsea 2, Crystal Palace 1. Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Wilfried Zaha.
Attempt missed. James McArthur (Crystal Palace) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Wilfried Zaha with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Pedro.
Substitution, Chelsea. Tiemoué Bakayoko replaces Eden Hazard.
Substitution, Chelsea. Pedro replaces Cesc Fàbregas.
Foul by Marcos Alonso (Chelsea).
Lee Chung-yong (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
James Tomkins (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card.
Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Álvaro Morata (Chelsea).
Martin Kelly (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Gary Cahill (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jairo Riedewald (Crystal Palace).
Foul by Marcos Alonso (Chelsea).
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Lee Chung-yong replaces Andros Townsend.
Attempt missed. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is too high following a corner.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Attempt blocked. Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Eden Hazard.
Attempt saved. Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Eden Hazard.
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Jairo Riedewald replaces Jeffrey Schlupp.
Foul by Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea).
James McArthur (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Chelsea. Álvaro Morata replaces Olivier Giroud.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by James Tomkins.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by James McArthur (Crystal Palace).
Attempt missed. Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left.
Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) hits the right post with a right footed shot from the centre of the box. Assisted by Marcos Alonso.
Foul by Gary Cahill (Chelsea).
Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt missed. Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right.
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Cesc Fàbregas.
Offside, Crystal Palace. Luka Milivojevic tries a through ball, but Wilfried Zaha is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) header from very close range is too high. Assisted by Willian with a cross.
Attempt blocked. Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Willian with a cross.