Another win on the road, this time courtesy of goals from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres, and another clean sheet, a record-breaking 209th for Petr Cech, see us move to the top of the table.
As in our previous away games this year, at Southampton and Derby, a tight, entertaining opening half ended goalless. And again after the break we made a spell of pressure count, Hazard brilliantly lashing in from 20 yards after another mazy dribble.
The remaining half hour or so was played out in relative comfort, with the points sealed by Torres, who cruised past Alex Bruce before finishing coolly.
For the first time in over five years, we have kept three clean sheets in a row away from home in the league, which means Cech overtakes Peter Bonetti as our all-time record holder in that department.
David Luiz was selected alongside his compatriot Ramires in midfield, with Gary Cahill starting in central defence for the fourth game running, on the occasion of his 50th league appearance in Chelsea blue.
Torres, himself celebrating a landmark – his 200th game in England’s top flight – returned to lead the line, with the in-form trio of Oscar, Willian and Hazard chosen to play behind the Spaniard.
Steve Bruce made eight changes from his side’s last outing, a 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough, with only Maynor Figueroa, David Meyler and George Boyd retained from that win on Teesside. Hull City lined up with three central defenders supported by wing-backs Ahmed Elmohamady and Figueroa.
The KC Stadium, where we were playing for the first time on a weekend, was bathed in sunshine as the players walked onto the pitch. Indeed, a section of the travelling Chelsea support were forced to spend much of the opening 45 shielding their eyes from the surprising Humber glow.
On the pitch, the apologetic Mark Clattenburg found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time a few minutes in, inadvertently halting Hazard in his tracks as a threatening counter-attack looked on the cards.
Elmohamady struck well from 20 yards, the ball bouncing awkwardly in front of Cech, but our keeper dealt with the game’s first shot comfortably. Torres then had an effort deflected into the side netting, with Allan McGregor in the Hull goal rooted to the spot. It wasn’t far off from sneaking inside his near post.
The already-menacing Hazard was clattered by Tom Huddlestone with 15 minutes gone, our Belgian winger feeling the full force of the shaven-headed, former Spurs man’s considerable physical presence.
Cech palmed behind a swerving Jake Livermore long-ranger, and from the resulting corner an unmarked Bruce could only head well over.
We were handed a more generous reprieve with 25 minutes on the clock. John Terry was caught in possession trying to play the ball out from the back near the corner flag, the ball ricocheting kindly to Yannick Sagbo. With just Cech to beat the big Ivorian snatched at his shot and it whizzed well wide.
A golden opportunity of our own to break the deadlock arrived five minutes later. Cole’s flick to Hazard on the edge of the Hull box took a host of the home side’s players – defending in numbers – out of the game. The Belgian’s subsequent cross took a knick in the direction of the unmarked Oscar, and as time seemed to stand still, our no.11’s effort on the half volley was magnificently saved by McGregor, whose steely left palm forced the ball over the ball and not under it when the game’s opening goal had seemed a certainty.
The Scot was called into action one more time before the half was up, shovelling David Luiz’s 35-yard free-kick – which the Brazilian had won himself – over the bar.
So a combative first 45, occasionally lacking quality, ended goalless. An excellent chance apiece had been spurned.
More wing-wizardry from Hazard soon after the restart created space for a shot, but the winger was well-tackled as he went to pull the trigger.
Our bright start to the half continued when a wave of blue pressure forced Bruce into a handball 25 yards from goal. Again David Luiz forced a stop from McGregor, this one a little more uneasy on the eye than in the first half. The rebound kindly for those of a Hull disposition.
As in our most recent games on the road, at Southampton and Derby, an upping of pressure at the beginning of the second half earned a tangible reward. David Luiz played the ball into Cole, who released Hazard with a delightful first-time back heel. The Belgian dashed in from the left-hand side of the box, feigning to shoot on a couple of occasions. He bode his time before firing low and hard past McGregor, who stood no chance. Hazard’s ninth Premier League goal of the season was one of his best yet, a fusion of the two he struck at Sunderland in early December.
Willian and Huddlestone then fired wide free-kicks not far over, while Hazard had a chance of a second but his shot was superbly blocked at close range.
Just as in the first half, Oscar looked set to score having led a counter-attack, latching on to Willian’s cross, but this time Davies was on hand to produce a superb block, diverting the Brazilian’s effort over the bar.
Despite having the lead, the expected Hull onslaught never really materialised. Steve Bruce shifted to a 4-2-3-1 formation in an attempt to gain some sort of holding of a half that had rather slipped by for his charges.
Mourinho responded in kind, bringing on John Mikel Obi in place of Oscar, presumably for the Nigerian’s defensive abilities and not his recent goalscoring exploits.
The three points were then wrapped up with 86 minutes gone. Willian fed Torres who had too much pace for the backpedalling Bruce, racing past the Hull boss’s son with ease. He finished with aplomb on his left, much to the delight of the Chelsea supporters positioned behind that goal and Mourinho on the side-line.
So a third consecutive win on the road, and all without conceding. The travelling fans bounced with delight at the prospect of going top of the league, while at the final whistle it was Cech who received the plaudits of his team-mates for beating Bonetti’s longstanding club record.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires (Essien 88), David Luiz; Willian (Schurrle 86), Oscar (Mikel 78), Hazard; Torres.
Unused subs Schwarzer, Bertrand, Essien, Mata, Schurrle, Eto’o.
Scorers Hazard 56, Torres 86
Booked Cahill 65
Hull City (3-5-1-1): McGregor; Chester (Fryatt 76), Bruce, Davies (c); Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler (Koren), Figueroa; Boyd (Quinn 82); Sagbo.
Unused subs Harper, Rosenior, Faye, Graham.
Booked Livermore 68, Figueroa 81
Referee Mark Clattenburg