Chelsea dropped two precious points and ended a three-game winning run, at home with a 1-1 draw against workmanlike but eminently beatable Stoke City at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.
A goal from Bertrand Traore six minutes before the break seemed to keep the Blues on track for a tilt at the top four.
But a shabby goal conceded five minutes from the end of the game by Mame Diouf, after a clumsy clearance from Thibaut Courtois means that mid-table mediocrity is all the Chelsea fan can look forward to the league, in coming months.
The Blues are 10th.
Striker Diego Costa, who had a minor tendon problem watched the first half from the dugout, but decided he was better off watching from the Shed End in the second
Chelsea had an excellent chance to open the scoring on four minutes but Bertrand Traore failed to get a toe to the excellent right byline cross by Cesar Azpilicueta.
A slash over the bar from midfielder Mikel on 14 minutes, temporarily enlivened the crowd who otherwise we're falling asleep, such was the mind-numbing tedium of the game in the early play.
Three minutes later and better set-up play saw Oscar twist and turn, and get off a shot on target from just inside the Stoke penalty area, but Jack Butland easily snaffled the effort.
Ibrahin Afellay then had a strike, on target, which Thibaut Courtois saved with a Hollywood save - totally unnecessary, but looked great for the fans.
A brilliant counter-attack by Stoke almost reaped dividend on 22 minutes but Mame Diouf clipped the ball over Courtois and also the crossbar.
A piece of pinball shooting could have resulted in a Blues opener, but Traore and Willian's efforts were blocked by resolute Stoke defending.
Diouf could and should have put Stoke ahead on 36 minutes when, following another quick break, planted his volley into the ground before seeing it inch post Courtois's left upright.
But the deadlock was eventually broken on 39 minutes, when Matic fed Traore at the edge of the Stoke area. He took a couple of short touches before planting a beautiful left-footer wide of the grasp of Butland and into the back of the net.
There were no changes at half-time but Stoke came out all guns blazing and Courtois was forced into parrying away a zinger of a shot from Marco Arnautovic two minutes in.
Chwlsea responded in kind and after a brilliant run by Willian, Hazard jinked his way into position to let fly with a powerful left-footer but the ball was just wide of goal.
Courtois had to be at his best in 58 minutes to thwart a daisy cutter from live wire Xherden Shaqiri. The stopper tipping the drive around his post.
But he was at fault five minutes from the end when a needless punch out fell invitingly to the head of Diouf and he hooked the ball into the net from six yards out.
It was a disappointing end to the game for the Blues .
Next up, on Wednesday is other potentially season-defining game against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. Next Saturday they face Everton at Goodison Park in the FA Cup
Teams: Chelsea, Courtois, Ivanovic, Baba, Oscar, Hazard, Mikel, Traore, Matic, Willian, Cahill, Azpilicueta
Subs, Begovic, Fabregas, Patao, Remy, Miazga, Loftus-Cheek, Clarke-Salter
Stoke City, Butland, Pietres, Muniesa, Whelen, Arnautovic, Afellay, Diouf, Cameron, Imbula, Shaqiri, Wollscheid
Subs, Haugaard, Ireland, Joselu, Walters, Teixeira, Crouch, Bojan
Referee Mark Clattenberg