Chelsea moved seven points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League after a hard-earned but ultimately comfortable London derby win.
The decisive goals came within a five-minute period in the second half in which Spurs, who for much of the preceding 55 minutes had looked the measure of a Chelsea side not at its best, imploded.
First, Jan Vertonghen gifted Samuel Eto’o the 300th goal of his club career before Eden Hazard slotted away a penalty that had seen Eto’o fouled by Younes Kaboul, who was sent off.
That looked to be it until the final few moments, when sub Demba Ba notched his first goals of 2014, first slamming home from close range when a loose ball fell to him, and then dispossessing Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris to knock into an empty net.
It means Chelsea are unbeaten in 15, with 11 clean sheets in 16 games, and without a defeat against Spurs on home soil since 1990. It also equalled our best ever home league victory against our London neighbours. All in all, it was a pretty good Saturday.
With Premier League rivals in FA Cup action this weekend, this game represented an opportunity for Jose Mourinho’s men to stretch our advantage at the top . To do so, the Blues would need to beat the league’s best away side, who had won nine of 14 games on their travels.
Mourinho initially made one change to the side which performed so well in the second half at Fulham last week, Frank Lampard preferred to Oscar, who had represented Brazil in South Africa in midweek, but was forced into another when Fernando Torres pulled out during the warm-up, meaning a start for Eto’o with Mohamed Salah promoted to the bench.
Spurs, under the stewardship of Tim Sherwood, set up with fit again Kyle Walker in an unfamiliar right-wing role, Gylfi Sigurdsson, a goalscorer here last season and Kaboul all recalled, with the in-form Emmanuel Adebayor the lone striker. Roberto Soldado was on the bench.
It should have been first blood to Chelsea inside the first five minutes, when Lampard won possession in midfield and Eto’o slipped in Hazard behind Tottenham’s flat defence. Having rounded Hugo Lloris in goal, the Belgian looked to have done the hard work, but off balance and at an angle he could only find the side netting.
The visitors were enjoying plenty of possession in the middle third, but threatened little until an Adebayor flick caught Branislav Ivanovic out of position to allow youngster Nabil Bentaleb a run on goal, but the Algerian could only drag his shot across Petr Cech’s goal and wide.
One golden chance each, and then Cech was forced into the game’s first save after a well-struck pot shot from Sandro, whose low drive was bound for the bottom corner before the goalkeeper’s sharp intervention.
At the other end Bentaleb gifted possession to Eto’o who progressed into the Spurs area unchallenged before shooting wide. It was the last decent opportunity of a half in which things had been quite even but Mourinho will have no doubt been plotting how his side could obtain possession further up the field against a Tottenham side more defensively set than usual.
Kyles Naughton and Walker had so far dealt well with Hazard down the Chelsea left, while Schurrle and Ramires had struggled to make any impact on the front foot.
At the break, the manager did change things, introducing Oscar for Lampard and dropping Ramires deeper to provide more energy and physicality in the middle.
Spurs had two decent chances in the opening few minutes of the second period, first Walker opted to pass rather than shoot inside the box, and from the resulting corner Kaboul rose highest but Cech was able to claim his header.
Schurrle then burst clear but failed to connect before shooting wastefully wide from distance. No matter, as within minutes we would be in front.
It owed much to fortune rather than any Chelsea brilliance, Vertonghen slipping and then sending a backpass straight into the path of Eto’o, who latched onto the loose ball before steering the ball through Lloris’s legs and low into the bottom corner.
The evening was about to get a whole lot worse for Tottenham’s back four, as Eto’o burst through again before being grounded by a challenge from Kaboul. Ref Michael Oliver took his time before pointing to the spot and dismissing the French defender.
With Lampard off, Hazard stepped up and stroked the penalty low into the bottom corner with Lloris going the wrong way. Inside five minutes the game had turned on its head, and Chelsea were two goals and one man to the good.
With 20 minutes remaining Spurs captain Dawson was forced off through injury, compounding a rather bad period for the north London side, whose own Champions League aspirations now look further away than ever.
Into the final 10 minutes Chelsea were coasting, Spurs chasing shadows as the Blues kept possession with ease. Substitutes Willian and Oscar combined to allow the latter a decent opportunity but he blasted over, only for us to grab two more goals before the end.
Ba had seen little of the ball since his introduction with 15 minutes remaining, but was then gifted two goals in just over a minute after more chaotic Spurs defending. First, Sandro blocked a cross six yards out which the Senegalese blasted home, and then Walker’s headed backpass was intercepted before Lloris could reach it, and converted into the empty net.
It was a mess for Spurs, success for Chelsea, who sit seven points clear of second-placed Liverpool, and 13 ahead of Sherwood’s side in fifth.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Lampard (Oscar h-t), Matic; Ramires, Hazard, Schurrle (Willian 65); Eto’o (Ba 75).
Unused subs Schwarzer, Kalas, Mikel, Salah.
Scorer Eto’o 55, Hazard 59
Booked Lampard 39, Azpilicueta 85
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Dawson (c) (Fryers 71), Vertonghen; Sandro, Bentaleb; Walker, Sigurdsson (Paulinho 60), Lennon; Adebayor.
Unused subs: Friedel, Chadli, Townsend, Kane, Soldado.
Booked Bentaleb 8, Naughton 52, Sandro 53
Sent off Kaboul 58
Referee Michael Oliver