MATCH REPORT: CHELSEA 4 WIGAN ATHLETIC 1
A run of four games without a win came to an end at Stamford Bridge. It was a victory which keeps us third in the Barclays Premier League table.
Ramires had given us the lead with his sixth goal of the season midway through the first half, finishing well after excellent build-up play between David Luiz and Fernando Torres, and the fact Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi had been their best player before the break spoke volumes.
Eden Hazard doubled our lead shortly after the restart, converting from a Cesar Azpilicueta cross, but two minutes later the away side were back in it as Shaun Maloney pounced on a loose ball and rounded Cech to score.
Attention now turns towards the Europa League, and a last 32 clash with Sparta Prague on Thursday.
Rafael Benitez made four changes to the side which was beaten at Newcastle United a week ago. With John Terry suffering an inflammation of his knee, Branislav Ivanovic partnered Gary Cahill in the centre of defence, while Azpilicueta, who made his senior Spain debut in midweek, came in at right-back.
Fernando Torres started in attack, with Demba Ba, who suffered a broken nose on his return to St James' Park, named as one of the substitutes.
Former Chelsea player Franco Di Santo started for the visitors.
While the Blues went into the game having not won since the game against Arsenal towards the end of last month, the visitors were equally in need of the points, and it was Roberto Martinez's side who started more positively.
Petr Cech, who played despite a hand injury sustained while away on international duty, was forced into two smart saves within the opening six minutes, first with his feet to deny Di Santo, and immediately after diving to his right to claw away a Shaun Maloney curler which looked destined for the far corner.
We had to wait until the 14th minute for our first real sight of goal. Paul Scharner was adjudged to have fouled Hazard, and from the resulting kick Torres glanced Lampard's delivery narrowly wide.
Two minutes later the Spaniard went close again, taking a brilliant pass from Branislav Ivanovic in his stride before turning Gary Caldwell and firing straight at Al Habsi.
After a slow start, we were gradually beginning to impose our influence on the game, and the pressure eventually told in the 22nd minute.
David Luiz brought the ball out from the back and slipped it in to Torres, who in turn helped it on to the advancing Ramires with a delightful touch; the Brazilian showed a great turn of pace to accelerate away, and as Al Habsi raced off his line he calmly dispatched it into the back of the net.
It was a lovely Chelsea move and a goal that, on the balance of play, we probably deserved, but having allowed leads to slip away in our previous two matches, there was still plenty of work to do.
Ten minutes later we almost doubled our advantage; Ramires fed Azpilicueta, and as the youngster picked out Torres with a brilliant cross, the striker's header was expertly tipped over the bar by Al Habsi.
As Chelsea began to string pass after pass together, Wigan were struggling to keep us at bay. Lampard, who had scored in our last three league games, fizzed one just wide from distance, while it took a deflection to deny David Luiz as he rose to meet an Oscar corner.
In truth, it had been a half which we'd completely dominated, but the warning signs remained.
Three minutes before the break, Maloney delivered a dangerous ball from wide on the right; it had just a little too much pace on it for Di Santo, but with James McArthur ready to pounce at the far post, a clever defensive header from Azpilicueta cleared the danger.
No doubt pleased with what he'd seen during the opening 45 minutes, Benitez chose not to make any changes at the break, and 10 minutes into the second half it was 2-0.
From a free-kick deep inside our own half, Cahill released Azpilicueta down the right-hand side; his cross found Hazard inside the penalty area, and the Belgian took one touch before drilling his strike beyond Al Habsi.
If the second goal was expected to allow us some breathing space, however, what followed two minutes later was a stark reminder, if one was needed, that the game was far from over.
A hopeful ball forward by McCarthur exposed both Cahill and Ivanovic; Maloney was quickest to react, and as Cech attempted to narrow the angle, the Wigan man rounded him and calmly slotted the ball into the empty net.
Sensing the importance of restoring our two-goal advantage, we looked to hit back instantly, and Lampard was unfortunate to see his effort roll inches past Al Habsi's left-hand post after combining with Ashley Cole.
Having reduced the deficit, though, Wigan appeared to feel that there might be something left for them in the game, and when Maloney crashed a shot against the hand of Cole inside the box, they appealed for a penalty.
Replays appeared to confirm it had struck the defender's hand, but much to the relief of the home supporters Mike Dean waved the appeals away.
Benitez made his first substitution of the afternoon with 14 minutes remaining, replacing Oscar, who was indicating he was in some discomfort, with Mata.
With the clock ticking down and the game still in the balance, a delightful move saw us all but secure the three points.
Hazard, who had been a constant threat throughout the second half, worked his way into the box before pulling it back to Mata. Reading the situation intelligently, the substitute let the ball run through his legs and into the path of Lampard, who fired a fantastic strike past Al Habsi into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
His 198th goal for the club sealed a much-needed win. However, there was still time for more. Two minutes into added time, a powerful drive by Azpilicueta stung the palms of Al Habsi, and it was substitute Marko Marin on hand to head his first goal for the club into an empty net, much to the delight of his team-mates who were quick to embrace the German.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill (Benayoun 87), Ivanovic, Cole; David Luiz, Lampard (c); Ramires, Oscar (Mata 77), Hazard (Marin 90); Torres.
Unused substitutes Turnbull, Ferreira, Bertrand, Ba.
Scorers Ramires 23, Hazard 55, Lampard 86, Marin 90+1
Booked Marin 90+2
Wigan Athletic (3-5-2): Al Habsi; Scharner, Caldwell (c), Figueroa; Stam (Jones 82), McArthur, McCarthy, Espinoza (Kone 58), Beausejour; Di Santo, Maloney.
Unused substitutues Robles, Golobart, Gomez, McManaman, Henriquez.
Scorer Maloney 57
Booked Scharner 63, Figueroa 79
Referee Mike Dean