LONDON, December 28 – Chelsea won for only the second time in eight matches to extend their Premier League lead to five points after coming from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 in a dramatic west London derby on Sunday.
Fulham needed just four minutes to go ahead at Stamford Bridge through Zoltan Gera before Carlo Ancelotti’s side scored twice in two minutes late on though Didier Drogba and a Chris Smalling own-goal to rescue all three points.
But second-placed champions Manchester United will cut Chelsea’s lead back to two points if they win at home to Wigan on Wednesday.
Fulham, who’ve already beaten Manchester United and Liverpool this season, stunned their hosts when the Blues failed to clear a Paul Konchesky cross and Hungarian midfielder Gera hooked an acrobatic shot past Petr Cech.
It wasn’t until the 73rd minute that striker Drogba, in his last Chelsea match before he departs on African Nations Cup duty with the Ivory Coast, equalised with a powerful header – the forward’s 19th goal in all competitions this term.
And just two minutes later Chelsea were in front after Daniel Sturridge’s cross-shot was saved by Fulham’s Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer only for the rebound to go in off luckless defender Smalling.
Earlier, Luka Modric marked his first start since August by scoring the opener as Tottenham Hotspur beat West Ham 2-0 at White Hart Lane to go fourth in the table.
In-form Birmingham, now unbeaten in their last 11 league games, won 1-0 away to Stoke thanks to striker Cameron Jerome’s 50th minute goal.
Elsewhere, England forward Darren Bent scored twice as Sunderland drew 2-2 away to Blackburn Rovers while Everton beat 10-man Burnley 2-0.
Manchester City will look to build on new manager Roberto Mancini’s winning start against Stoke when they travel to Wolves for Monday’s late match.
Croatia midfielder Modric, out for several months with a broken leg, started and finished a length of the field move in the 11th minute.
Jermain Defoe sealed victory against his old club nine minutes from time with his 14th league goal of the season, a strike that left the England forward as the division’s top scorer this term.
But Spurs will return to fifth place if Aston Villa win at home to Liverpool on Tuesday.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said a top four finish and a place in next term’s Champions League would be a remarkable feat given Tottenham’s lowly position in the relegation zone when he arrived at the club early last season.
"We would certainly settle for finishing in the top four from where we were last year," Redknapp told Sky Sports.
Defeat against their London rivals left West Ham hovering above the relegation zone and the loss was made worse by the early exit of key midfielder Scott Parker with what appeared to be a recurrence of a hamstring injury.
"We can only be strong and try to get round this problem – that’s all we can do," said current West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola.
Former Spurs striker Bent gave visitors Sunderland a 53rd minute lead only for Rovers’ Morten Gamst Pedersen to equalise barely 60 seconds later.
But Bent restored Sunderland’s advantage in the 65th minute at Ewood Park only for El-Hadji Diouf to head Rovers level.
Everton substitute James Vaughan came off the bench to score seven minutes from time at Goodison Park before South Africa’s Steven Pienaar wrapped up victory in the dying seconds against a Burnley side reduced to 10 men midway through the second half after Stephen Jordan was sent-off.