Late goals by Cesar Azpilicueta and Michy Batshuayi ensured the Blues returned to winning ways as we came from behind to beat Watford 4-2 on an eventful afternoon at Stamford Bridge.
Batshuayi, a second-half substitute, had drawn us level with a brilliant 70th-minute header, and with the game seemingly on course for a draw, Azpilicueta popped up four minutes from time to meet a wonderful Willian cross and head us in front. Batshuayi then made sure of the points with a smart finish in added time.
Antonio Conte’s side had taken an early lead in the game courtesy of a stunning Pedro strike. Goals from Abdoulaye Doucoure and Roberto Pereyra either side of the break, however, had put the visitors in control of the contest, and they could have been out of sight but for a couple of glaring misses by Richarlison.
The introduction of Batshuayi and Willian had the desired effect for the Blues, though, with both players influential as we produced a stunning late turnaround.
Conte made two changes to the side which started against Roma in midweek, with Antonio Rudiger and Pedro coming in for Andreas Christensen and Davide Zappacosta.
Rudiger slotted into the back three, alongside David Luiz and Gary Cahill, who was making his 250th Chelsea appearance, while Azpilicueta moved out to right wing-back.
Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas formed a midfield pairing, as they did at Crystal Palace a week ago, and Alvaro Morata led the line.
Having made his debut in our recent Carabao Cup win over Nottingham Forest, 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu was named among the subs.
N’Golo Kante, Victor Moses and Danny Drinkwater were all ruled out due to injury, as was our former midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah for the visitors.
Having made an important tackle on Richarlison inside the opening couple of minutes, Rudiger then did well to divert a Pereyra cross behind after the winger had exchanged passes with Troy Deeney and worked himself into a dangerous position.
Most of our early attacking play came down the right-hand side, with Eden Hazard and Fabregas linking up well and looking to find an opening, and it was those two players who combined to tee up Pedro to open the scoring with our first attempt of note in the 12th minute.
Fabregas played a short corner to Hazard, who picked out Pedro just outside the penalty area. The Spaniard had plenty to do, but his first-time strike was one of pure quality as he bent the ball over the head of Gomes and into the back of the net off the top of the post.
It was a stunning strike, Pedro’s third of the season, and one which provided us with the perfect start.
Moments later it was Fabregas on the end of a flowing counter attack as a wonderful opportunity to extend our lead went begging.
Hazard picked up the ball inside our own half and ran at the retreating Watford defence before laying it off to Morata. The striker, spotting the run of Fabregas, picked out his compatriot with a delightful pass, but with only Gomes to beat he went for the dink and the ‘keeper made the save.
Our attacking players had started the game impressively and Pedro went close to scoring a second when his low drive from distance fizzed past the right-hand post of Gomes. The Watford keeper was then called into action again as he saved a powerful David Luiz effort.
The visitors, despite seeing their fair share of the ball, hadn’t seriously tested Thibaut Courtois during the opening half-hour, but that soon changed when the Belgian produced a brilliant save from Tom Cleverley’s dipping free-kick, which looked to be going in.
Richarlison’s curler from the edge of the box was a more straightforward save for Courtois, but a reminder nevertheless that Watford remained a threat.
Marco Silva’s side were enjoying plenty of possession in the closing stages of the first half but, having seen his side concede five goals over the course of our previous two matches, Conte will have been pleased with the manner in which we were defending, restricting the visitors to shots from distance.
At the other end, Gomes saved well from a decent Fabregas strike, and although David Luiz met the subsequent corner on the volley, the Brazilian was unable to keep it down.
In added time at the end of the half, however, Watford drew level. As a throw-in was delivered from deep inside our half, David Luiz headed the ball away, but his clearance deflected into the path of Doucoure who fired through a crowded box to make it 1-1.
A dipping long-range effort from Pedro wasn’t far away as we looked to start the second half in a positive manner, but a minute later Watford passed up a glorious opportunity to take the lead when Richarlison failed to convert a Kiko Femenia cross with the goal at his mercy.
From their next attack, however, they were far more clinical as Richarlison turned provider, the Brazilian teeing up Pereyra who blasted his strike beyond Courtois from inside the box to make it 2-1.
It should have been 3-1 soon after when Miguel Britos picked out the unmarked Richarlison in front of goal, but his header was a poor one and dropped the wrong side of the post.
Just before the hour Conte made his first change of the afternoon, a straight swap up front with Batshuayi replacing Morata, and soon after Willian was introduced for Marcos Alonso.
The impact of the substitutes was almost immediate as both were involved in the goal which drew us level, with Willian playing a quick free-kick to Pedro, whose wonderful cross from the right-hand side was expertly glanced into the far corner by Batshuayi.
Pedro shifted to right wing-back, with Azpilicueta moving to the opposite side, and Willian supporting Hazard and Batshuayi in attack.
It was all to play for as the contest entered its last 10 minutes and Batshuayi was unlucky to see a right-footed curler roll just wide of the far post.
The Belgian, who had looked lively since coming on, then blasted over the bar after collecting a Fabregas free-kick and holding off his marker inside the Watford box.
Four minutes from time we took the lead with a goal which came from an unlikely source as Azpilicueta arrived at the far post to head home after a superb Willian cross had been diverted into his path.
Five minutes added time were signalled by the referee, but it was the Blues who finished the stronger of the two teams, and Batshuayi made sure of the points when he capitalised on a mistake at the back to race through and lift the ball over Gomes.
It was a hard-fought, but much-needed victory for Conte's side, who return to the Bridge for a Carabao Cup game against Everton on Wednesday.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Rudiger, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Azpilicueta, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso (Willian 68); Pedro (Zappacosta 85), Morata (Batshuayi 59), Hazard.
Unused subs: Caballero, Christensen, Ampadu, Musonda
Scorers Pedro 12, Batshuayi 70 and 90+5, Azpilicueta 86
Booked Rudiger 22, Morata 55
Watford (3-4-3): Gomes; Mariappa (Gray 90), Kabasele, Britos; Femenia, Cleverley, Doucoure, Holebas; Pereyra (Carrillo 64), Deeney (c) (Watson 80), Richarlison.
Unused subs: Karnezis, Janmaat, Wague, Capoue
Scorers Doucoure 45+2, Pereyra 49
Booked Holebas 12, Mariappa 18, Femenia 77
Referee Jonathan Moss