Cesc Fabregas netted both goals as Chelsea twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with fourth-placed West Ham at Stamford Bridge.
After falling behind to a sublime strike from Manuel Lanzini just after the quarter-hour, Fabregas swept in a majestic free-kick on the stroke of half-time to restore parity heading into the break.
But West Ham, who are chasing a Champions League spot under the tutelage of Slaven Bilic, went ahead again when Andy Carroll took advantage of poor goalkeeping from Thibaut Courtois to give the visitors the lead.
Bertrand Traore – a second-half substitute – then rescued the Blues with a goalline clearance from another Carroll effort to maintain the one-goal deficit, and when Ruben Loftus-Cheek was unceremoniously bundled over by Michail Antonio, Fabregas stepped up to extend Chelsea’s unbeaten league run to an impressive 14 matches.
Chelsea might even have won it late on but for Loftus-Cheek’s wasteful miss, but with winnable fixtures away at 20th-placed Aston Villa and 16th-placed Swansea City next on the agenda, the Blues’ late push for a European berth may well now be taking shape, especially with many online betting sites offering favourable odds on the Londoners claiming a Europa League spot.
The Blues are currently six points behind sixth-placed Manchester United, who travel to Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City, and with a favourable run-in, there is the potential for Guus Hiddink’s men to claim a European spot via their Premier League position.
They might be even more well-placed to do so had the Blues got off to a better start, with West Ham dominating the opening exchanges and deservedly taking the lead through Lanzini’s stunning strike as the Hammers looked to add Chelsea to their list of Manchester City, Liverpool, and Arsenal as away scalps in the league so far this season.
Chelsea rallied and began to exert some pressure on the visitors, but it was only through Fabregas’ sumptuous set-piece that they were finally able to test – and beat – Adrian in the West Ham goal.
And though Chelsea took that momentum forward into the second half, they were stunned when Dimitri Payet dissected the Blues’ defence with a straightforward inside pass, allowing Carroll to stroll on and slot the ball home, albeit with the assistance of the continued questionable form of Courtois, who was, once again, beaten through his legs.
The Belgian’s blushes were spared, however, when Fabregas took the responsibility of taking an 89th-minute penalty awarded for a trip on Loftus-Cheek, who, moments after the Spaniard netted the equaliser, almost won it with a turn and finish which rolled agonisingly wide of the upright.
Chelsea remain tenth – aided by Everton’s loss at home to third-placed Arsenal, though the Toffees, who have a superior goal difference to Chelsea, have a game in hand over Hiddink’s men.