Diego Costa smashed Chelsea back to the top of the Premier League with a sensational left-footed thumper that almost took the top of the WBA net off, writes Paul Lagan.
Overtaken by Arsenal on Saturday, who went top on extra goals scored, the Blues went three points clear with this 1-0 win over WBA at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.
With their dour encounter seemingly heading for a 0-0 draw, Antonio Conte unleashed creative midfielder Cesc Fabregas from the bench with 15 minutes left on the clock. A minute later and the Spain maestro fed Costa on the right. The Brazil-born striker outmuscled Gareth McCauly before racing into the WBA penalty area. he then produced a cracker of a left-footer that had pace and curl and zipped past goalkeeper Ben Foster and smacked the far top corner of the net.
Make no mistake this was not the free-flowing Chelsea of late but they dug in, kept their concentration and in Fabregas have the man to unlock the meanest of defences.
After what appeared to be the slowest start in Premier League history, Chelsea began to impose themselves on WBA, who were content to sit back, absorb the home side's pressure and attempt to break on the counter-attack.
The noon kick-off also had an effect on the crowd, who acted as though they were working off a Saturday night hangover.
Some very intricate play between Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, while looking good failed to deliver.
It took the visitors' Chris Brunt to wake the fans from their slumber as his 25-yarder almost zipped past Courtois. Thankfully it went inches wide of the goalkeeper's right post.
Solomon Rondon was next to test the Chelsea back three when he disposed David Luiz, had a run on goal but scuffed his shot across goal and out four a goal kick.
The Blues finally had an effort worthy of then name on 28 minutes when a Kante shot was misshit, deflected off Pedro but squeezed just wide of Ben Foster's left post.
A Luiz free-kickfive minutes from the break curled to Foster's right, but the goalkeeper dived at full stretch to snaffle the long-range effort.
There were no changes of personnel at half-time by either side.
But the second half was an almost carbon copy of the first in terms of tactics.
Antonio Conte made his first change on 63 minutes, replacing ineffectual Pedro with Willian.
Cesc Fabregas was next on, in an attempt to change the course of the game. He replaced Victor Moses.
And it was an instant success. Fabregas on the right, on 76 minutes, fed Costa, who outmuscled Gareth McCauley on the right, cut inside to the edge of the WBA penalty area and thumped the perfect left-footed curler past Foster and the ball smashed into the top off the net.
It was Costa's 12th goal of the season.
The Blues goal was never seriously threatened as WBA did not have a plan B for going behind.
The next two matches see the Blues on their travels - Sunderland on Wednesday and then at Crystal Palace at the weekend, before the Boxing Day home game against Bournemouth.
Teams: Chelsea, Courtois, Alonso, Kante, Hazard, pedro, Moses, Costa, Matic, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Luiz
Subs: Begovic, Ivanovic, Fabgrgas, Willian, Batshuayi, Chalobah, Aina
WBA: Foster, Nyom, Yacob, Evans, Morrison, Rondon, Philips, Brunt, McAuley, Fletcher, Dawson
Subs: Palmer, Olsson, Robson-Kanu, Gardner, McClean, Galloway, Chadli
Referee: Mike Dean