A stunning Andre Schurrle hat-trick helped the Blues preserve our position at the top of the Premier League table as we ran out 3-1 winners at Craven Cottage.
Schurrle scored three times in the space of 16 minutes at the beginning of the second half to put us in control of the contest, and though Johnny Heitinga replied for the hosts, we were able to see the game out comfortably.
An even first half had produced little in the way of goalscoring opportunities at either end, with Fernando Torres seeing the best of ours well saved by Maarten Stekelenburg just before the break.
An improvement in the second half, with our attacking players able to influence the game, provided a platform for our quality to shine through, and Schurrle’s first hat-trick for the club ultimately proved the difference between the sides.
With no midweek fixture, we can now look forward to another London derby, this time against Tottenham Hotspur, at Stamford Bridge next Saturday.
Jose Mourinho made just two changes from the side which drew at Galatasaray in midweek, with Nemanja Matic and Oscar coming in for Frank Lampard and Willian respectively. Matic , who was ineligible for the game in Istanbul, partnered Ramires as the two deep-lying midfielders, while Oscar was tasked with operating in a central position in behind Fernando Torres, with Schurrle and Eden Hazard, who was making his 100th appearance for the club, providing the width. Having missed the last two matches through injury, David Luiz was named as one of the Chelsea substitutes.
The home side named two former Blues in their starting line-up, Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell patrolling the central midfield area in a 4-4-2 for Fulham.
Fulham manager Felix Magath had spoken in the build-up to the game about how he hoped his side could take advantage of the fact we’d travelled to Istanbul in midweek, and it was the hosts who threatened first inside the opening couple of minutes.
Kieran Richardson released the overlapping Pajtim Kasami, whose cross was a dangerous one, but Clint Dempsey was unable to register a proper connection and his header sailed well wide.
The Blues, in truth, had started slowly, with only a wayward Schurrle free-kick to show for our early efforts, but we almost took the lead when Torres charged down a Maarten Stekelenburg clearance and, as the ball came down the striker’s effort was diverted wide by the goalkeeper.
As the 20-minute mark approached neither side will have been particularly satisfied with the manner in which they’d started the game, with John Terry urging our attacking players to move the ball faster in the final third.
The home side were forced into an early change when Brede Hangeland was forced off following an aerial collision with Richardson, the skipper replaced by Dan Burn, and soon after they launched a dangerous counter attack, through Richardson, which required a timely intervention by Cesar Azpilicueta to deny Dempsey at the far post.
A clever interchange between Hazard and Ramires saw the Brazilian curl a decent left-footed strike just over the top of Stekelenburg’s bar as we attempted to inject some urgency into our attacking play.
At the other end, meanwhile, Gary Cahill displayed great awareness to take the ball away from the foot of Dempsey as the Fulham attacker attempted to latch on to a Parker pass inside the six-yard box.
Petr Cech was called into action five minutes before the break when he saved well low down from a powerful Kasami free-kick, getting a strong enough hand behind the drive to ensure there was no rebound for the home side to profit from.
It was Fulham looking the more likely as half-time approached, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief when Sidwell fired inches over the bar after Dempsey’s flick had fallen kindly for the midfielder.
The Blues, however, were equally eager to steal an advantage prior to the break, and it almost came when Torres saw a brilliant strike from an angle tipped over the bar by Stekelenburg.
The second half opened with the Blues on the front foot, and a decent chance went begging when Schurrle opted to shoot rather than slip in the unmarked Oscar, his strike deflected behind for a corner.
Moments later, however, the breakthrough came, and it was a goal of the highest quality.
Hazard picked the ball up midway inside the Fulham half and released Schurrle with a delightful reverse pass; the German showed great pace to ease away from Burn, intelligently got across the defender with one touch and drilled his strike beyond Stekelenburg.
The opener was the perfect way to start the half and, whatever Mourinho had said to his players during the half-time interval, appeared to have had the desired effect.
The goal sparked the Blues into life, with Hazard and Oscar beginning to look a real threat. We should have extended our lead minutes later when the Belgian adjusted his footing and produced a stunning cross, only for Torres’s header to skim off the head of Burn and go behind.
It was all Chelsea by this stage, and it wasn’t long before our lead was doubled, with the same combination proving decisive.
Hazard pounced on a loose ball deep inside Fulham territory, the defenders backed off, allowing the winger to slide the ball into the path of Schurrle who calmly slotted his left-footed strike into the far corner.
After a fairly uninspiring first half we’d taken complete control of the contest, and better was to come three minutes later as Schurrle completed a remarkable hat-trick.
Once again we capitalised on a breakdown in Fulham play and as the ball was worked inside to Torres, he picked out the run of the 23-year-old with a brilliant pass; Schurrle took a touch to steady himself and fired confidently into the bottom corner to cap an unbelievable 16 minutes.
With Mourinho’s men seemingly in total control, however, the home side ensured there was still work to be done when they pulled a goal back. The corner was delivered from wide on the left and as we failed to clear our lines, Johnny Heitinga was left with the simplest of finishes from close range.
Sensing the need to shore things up, Mourinho replaced the impressive Oscar with John Mikel Obi, while Demba Ba introduced at the expense of Torres soon after.
The manager gave the travelling Chelsea fans the opportunity to show their appreciation for the hat-trick hero as the game edged towards its conclusion, with David Luiz replacing Schurrle.
There were a couple of chances to add to our tally late on, with Ramires first seeing a strike saved by Stekelenburg before firing over the bar after Ba had been denied.
As the final whistle sounded, though, the Chelsea fans packed in behind the goal where all three goals were scored celebrated wildly, safe in the knowledge a difficult hurdle had been overcome.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Schurrle (David Luiz 86), Oscar (Mikel 77), Hazard; Torres (Ba 80).
Unused substitutes: Schwarzer, Cole, David Luiz, Lampard, Willian.
Scorer Schurrle 52, 65 and 68
Booked Ramires 49
Fulham (4-4-2): Stekelenburg; Riether, Hangeland (c) (Burn 13), Heitinga, Richardson; Dejagah, Parker (Karagounis 78), Sidwell, Kasami (Holtby 60); Dempsey, Bent.
Unused substitutes: Stockdale, Riise, Kvist, Rodallega.
Scorer Heitinga 74
Booked Dejagah 34, Kasami 47
Referee Mark Clattenburg