Eden Hazard scored a hat-trick as Chelsea moved to the top of the Premier League with an easy 3-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho's men took advantage of Arsenal's 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool and Manchester City's goalless draw with Norwich City to leapfrog their title rivals.
And it was Belgium attacking midfielder Hazard who proved to be the hero, the 23-year-old producing a virtuoso performance and taking his tally for the season to 14 goals with an impressive treble.
Hazard opened the scoring midway through the first half with an emphatic finish, and his second quickly followed as he rounded off a superb Chelsea breakaway after 34 minutes.
That ended the game as a contest but the former Lille man applied the gloss to a fine display with a penalty just after the hour mark.
Captain John Terry was left out for Chelsea, who had the better of an open start to the game, Hazard's tame effort drawing a save from Tim Krul and Frank Lampard firing a free-kick just wide.
Chelsea quickly began to dominate proceedings and perhaps should have taken the lead after 25 minutes when Oscar lashed a shot narrowly off target.
But just two minutes later Chelsea did make the breakthrough as Hazard curled into the bottom corner having collected a pass from Branislav Ivanovic, scorer of the winning goal at Manchester City.
Newcastle wasted a glaring chance just after the half-hour mark, Moussa Sissoko - captain in the absence of the injured Cheick Tiote - denied by Cech following a superb throughball from Davide Santon.
And the visitors were punished almost immediately as Hazard finished off a marvellous counter-attack by surging into the box before playing a one-two with Samuel Eto'o and coolly slotting beyond Krul.
Mourinho's men continued to look fallible in defence and were grateful to Cech once more when the Czech Republic goalkeeper scrambled to prevent Luuk de Jong scoring on his full Newcastle debut with a close-range header.
But the visitors' problems mounted further five minutes before the half-time interval when Mathieu Debuchy limped off to be replaced by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Chelsea almost extended their lead in bizarre fashion early in the second half as Krul lost his footing in an attempt to claim David Luiz's long ball forward, which bounced over the Dutchman's head before eventually rolling wide of the goal despite Oscar's determined chase to keep the ball in play.
Mike Williamson prevented Eto'o from scoring a third with a fine block before Krul kept out a stinging free-kick from Lampard.
However, the third goal finally arrived on 63 minutes, Hazard converting from the spot in confident fashion after Yanga-Mbiwa had hauled down Eto'o in the area.
Hazard then came off to a rousing standing ovation prior to a flurry of late chances, Krul denying substiute Mohamed Salah a first goal for Chelsea before Sylvain Marveaux somehow shot wide following a Newcastle counter at the other end.
|17||E. Hazard||27' 34' 63'|
|Coach: José Mourinho|
for S. Eto'o 71'
for Willian 78'
for E. Hazard 85'
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