John Terry marked his return from injury with a dramatic late winner as title-chasing Chelsea beat Everton 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Having dropped points at West Brom in their last top-flight fixture, Jose Mourinho's men looked set to be frustrated again by an Everton side that had presentable chances of their own.
However, a free-kick from Frank Lampard - who is now up to joint-second on the all-time Premier League appearance list - found its way into the net late on as fit-again Terry applied pressure to Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard.
The goal sent Chelsea four points clear at the summit ahead of Saturday's other fixtures.
Everton, whose last league win at Chelsea came in 1994, remain sixth but have now suffered three successive away defeats to teams above them.
Leon Osman came closest to scoring in a first half short on goalmouth action, forcing Petr Cech into a sharp save from distance.
Both goalkeepers were required to make impressive stops after the interval, before Lampard had the final say.
Terry returned after missing three matches with a muscle strain, replacing David Luiz in Chelsea's defence, while Lampard and Oscar were also recalled.
Steven Naismith - scorer of the only goal in September's return fixture - was drafted into Everton's side at short notice when Lacina Traore picked up a hamstring injury in the warm-up.
Willian dragged a low shot wide as the hosts started brightly, but Everton soon settled, enjoying prolonged spells of possession, and almost moved ahead in the 12th minute.
Naismith laid the ball into Osman's path 25 yards out and the midfielder's powerful first-time shot forced a fine one-handed save from Cech.
Chelsea gradually improved prior to the interval and visiting keeper Howard needed to be alert to deny Samuel Eto'o after the forward had made space for himself inside the penalty area.
Everton's Kevin Mirallas then wasted a fine opportunity just before half-time, scuffing a shot into Naismith having been given space on the edge of the box.
Chelsea, with Ramires on for Oscar, came out for the second period with renewed purpose and Lampard tested Howard following a neat pass from Eden Hazard.
Yet Everton refused to lie down and Osman brought another good save from Cech on 58 minutes with a deflected strike that the keeper did well to parry past his left-hand post.
Not to be surpassed, Howard got down to deny Hazard before springing to his feet to keep out Branislav Ivanovic's close-range follow-up.
Ramires almost broke the deadlock in the 89th minute with a fizzing 25-yarder that flew narrowly wide, but it mattered little as Chelsea secured a precious winner.
|Coach: José Mourinho|
for Oscar 46'
for Willian 62'
for S. Eto'o 69'
|Cerci ´cannot wait´ to join Milan|
|Montolivo: Real friendly is ideal preparation|
|Hibernian announce fan ownership scheme after clearing debt|
|´There was definitely contact´ - Fabregas wades into diving row|
|El Shaarawy going nowhere - Inzaghi|
|Ancelotti relishing Milan friendly|
|Torres heading to Atleti in pursuit of happiness|
|Popovic given green light to join Palace|
|Coquelin relishing Arsenal opportunity|
|Commission rejects FFP challenge|
|Bruce hopes for squad boost|
|Lambert slams ´nonsense´ fixture list|
|Redknapp looking for loan deals|
|Pearson welcomes Premier League pressure|
|Terry calls for ´quiet arrogance´ from Chelsea|
|Dyche baffled by Burnley´s ´strugglers´ tag|
|Irvine unaware of potential West Brom additions|
|Allardyce pleased with 2014 points haul|
|Torres set for return to Atletico Madrid on loan|
|Maiga earns Mali recall|
|Sunderland concern over Larsson and Bridcutt|
|Pochettino planning Tottenham transfer talks|
|Wenger confident of top-four finish|
|Hughes sweating on Bojan fitness|
|Hectic schedule caught up with United - Van Gaal|
|Capello: Wenger shunned Lopez advice|
|PSG aim for improvement in Morocco|
|Jones: United could have scored four|
|Mignolet: Getting dropped helped me|
|A-League Preview: No concerns for Finkler ahead of Victory blockbuster|
|Milan, Atletico working on Torres-Cerci swap|
|Garbutt: Crisis talk premature|
|Zurich pair key for Tunisia|
|Uchida ruled out of Asian Cup|
|Lemina rejects Gabon call-up|
|Toure a doubt for Sunderland clash|
|Millen ´ready´ to manage Palace|
|Carver urges Newcastle to kick on|
|Bellarabi extends Leverkusen deal|
|Wenger hails ´committed´ Arsenal|
|Diouf will be missed - Hughes|
|Millen elated at resolute Palace performance|
|Lambert: Big point for Villa|
|Martinez rues Cisse decision|
|Dyche delighted by Burnley character|
|Allardyce: Officials got it horribly wrong|
|Poyet rues dropped points at Villa|
|Bruce frustrated as dominant display yields no points|
|Pellegrini laments key turning points in Burnley setback|
|Newcastle United 3 Everton 2: Pardew´s men impress at St James´ Park|
|League One Review: Swindon climb into second, MK Dons suffer surprise defeat|
|Championship Review: Bournemouth go four points clear, Boro held|
|Koeman hails Southampton spirit|
|Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0 Aberdeen 1: Pawlett strikes sends McInnes´ men second|
|Mourinho fumes at ´campaign´ against Chelsea|
|Manchester City 2 Burnley 2: Barnes claims a point to deny champions|
|West Ham 1 Arsenal 2: Wenger´s men climb above hosts|
|Hull City 0 Leicester City 1: Mahrez fires Pearson´s men to victory|
|QPR 0 Crystal Palace 0: Millen makes solid start as temporary Palace boss|
|Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 0: Delph sees red in stalemate|
|Stoke 2 West Brom 0: Diouf brace secures back-to-back wins|
|Southampton 1 Chelsea 1: Mourinho´s men end 2014 on top|
|Van Gaal frustrated with wasteful finishing|
|Pochettino content with goalless draw|
|Tottenham 0 Manchester United 0: Honours even at White Hart Lane|
|Klose vows to fight for Lazio place|
|Hughton admits interest in Palace and Brighton roles|
|Injuries not behind retirement plans, says Rolfes|
|Podolski: Arsenal exit not a formality|
|Wellington Phoenix 1 Western Sydney Wanderers 0: Krishna wins it|
|Taylor wary of ´beast´ Lukaku|
|Al Habsi to lead Oman at Asian Cup|
|Lacazette will stay at Lyon - Aulas|
|Southampton like Atletico, says Alderweireld|
|World Cup held PSG back - Blanc|
|Everton facing ´pivotal´ moment - Martinez|
|Zamora urges QPR to tie down Austin|
|Badstuber, Alaba set for New Year return|
|Burgos: Atletico will get the best out of Torres|
|Chelsea to offer Terry new deal - Mourinho|
|Rodgers excited by Sterling development|
|Strinic close to finalising Napoli switch|
|Torres to join Milan on permanent deal|
|Scottish Premiership Review: Celtic held to shock draw, rivals fail to capitalise|
|Wenger sings Song´s praises|
|Pochettino calls for bravery|
|West Ham could lose Allardyce - Sullivan|
|League One Preview: Saunders takes charge for Colchester clash|
|Aguirre denies any involvement in La Liga match-fixing scandal|
|Mourinho impressed by Koeman´s Southampton|
|QPR v Crystal Palace: Millen recast in familiar role|
|West Ham v Arsenal: Allardyce eyes further home comfort|
|Elusive Coppa Italia on Juventus´ wish list - Marotta|
|Jones eyes swift response|
|Millen focused on QPR clash|
|League Two Preview: Shrewsbury, Wycombe and Burton vie for year-end top spot|
|Mancini not expecting big-money signings at Inter|
|Tottenham v Manchester United: Carrick expects tough return|
|Pearson eager to see Leicester resolve|
|Newcastle United v Everton: Martinez demands clinical touch|
|Liverpool v Swansea City: Rodgers backs returning Mignolet|
|Bayern can still improve - Sammer|
|Warnock sacked by Palace|
|Aston Villa v Sunderland: No club too big to go down, says Lambert|
|Hull City v Leicester City: Pearson vows to keep going|
|Stoke City v West Brom: Hughes targets elusive back-to-back wins|
|Rodgers dismisses Balotelli exit rumours|
|Modric will not rush Madrid return|
|Dyche pleased with Vokes return|
|Southampton v Chelsea: Koeman vows to go on the offensive|
|A-League Review: Six-goal Gosford thriller, Victory leave it late|
|Manchester City v Burnley: Pellegrini warns against complacency|
|Dortmund can fight on two fronts - Watzke|
|Sterling hails improved Liverpool belief|
|Rosicky eager to build on QPR winner|
|Wenger: ´We made it hard for ourselves´|
|Kane: Spurs eye top four|
|Di Maria in doubt for Spurs clash|