Frank Lampard scored in his 100th Premier League match as Chelsea stumbled past a brave Sunderland at Stamford Bridge.
Without Didier Drogba for the first time in the league and with Daniel Sturrdge still sidelined, The Blues opted for Fernando Torres up front, and while the Spaniard failed to end his 15-match goal drought, he did play a part in the decisive goal of the afternoon.
Juan Mata’s deep cross picked out the forward, whose acrobatic volley cannoned off the bar only for the rebound to hit Lampard and hand the hosts the lead.
A rejuvenated Sunderland, who had lost just once since the appointment of Martin O’Neill, had several chances to level proceedings, but lacked a cutting edge when required.
James McClean, promoted to the first-team upon O’Neill’s arrival, squanded two opportunities, the first after Seb Larsson’s cross sound the Northern Irishman unmarked, but his poked effort went wide.
The visitors’ best chance fell the way of Nicklas Bendtner, whose swept his effort over the bar after been played clean through in stoppage time.
The win helps tightens Chelsea’s grip on fourth spot in the Premier League, while the return of Michael Essien following a summer knee injury will give Andre Villas-Boas reason to believe the second half of the campaign can be more fruitful than the first.