Our place in the fifth round of the FA Cup was secured courtesy of a 3-0 win over Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge, with Michy Batshuayi scoring a first-half brace and Marcos Alonso putting the seal on the result with a wonderful free-kick after the break.
There was little to choose between the sides during the opening half-hour but after Batshuayi had given us the lead with a simple close-range finish we took control of proceedings and ran out worthy winners.
With his side in a comfortable position late on, Antonio Conte was able to hand a Chelsea debut to 17-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi, as well as give some much-needed game time to Ross Barkley, who played the last 20 minutes.
There were four changes to side which started at Arsenal in midweek, with Gary Cahill, Davide Zappacosta, Danny Drinkwater and Batshuayi all coming into the starting line-up.
Willy Caballero continued in goal, in the absence of the injured Thibaut Courtois, while Cahill came in for Cesar Azpilicueta.
Victor Moses dropped down to the bench, and with Willian unavailable due to injury it was Pedro and Eden Hazard tasked with supporting Batshuayi.
Cesc Fabregas returned from injury and was named among the subs, along with Barkley, while David Luiz missed out after picking up a knock on his ankle.
Kenedy, who joined Newcastle on loan earlier this week, wasn’t eligible to play for the visitors.
The opening stages of the match failed to yield any chances of note but there was concern for the Blues after just 12 minutes when Zappacosta required treatment after being caught by Massadio Haidara as he delivered a cross from the right-hand side.
The Italian was back on his feet fairly quickly and a foul on Hazard, by Chancel Mbemba, shortly afterwards presented the Blues with our first decent opportunity. The Belgian took the free-kick but it struck the wall and Newcastle were able to clear.
The visitors should have profited from a mix-up in the Chelsea defence as Zappacosta gave the ball to Dwight Gayle, a scorer at the Bridge in last month’s Premier League encounter, but the Newcastle forward opted to pass, rather than shoot, and the chance went begging.
Caballero then produced a fine save, turning away a Jonjo Shelvey volley at his near post, after Haidara had delivered from wide on the left, and at the other end Alonso saw his strike blocked after exchanging passes with Pedro.
As the half-hour mark approached the contest was struggling to come to life, but that all changed thanks to a moment of brilliance from Pedro.
Receiving a pass from Toni Rudiger inside our own half, the Spaniard played a truly magnificent ball in behind the Newcastle defence to release Hazard, who rolled it back into the path of the advancing Alonso. The wing-back, under pressure, got enough of a touch on the ball to direct it into the path of the unmarked Batshuayi who was left with the simple task of firing into an empty net to give us the lead.
It was the striker’s second goal in the FA Cup this season and his ninth of the campaign in all competitions.
Caballero saved well down to his left from Gayle as the visitors looked to hit back quickly but six minutes before the break our lead was almost extended when Rudiger, after selling Shelvey a dummy, bent a brilliant left-footed strike inches wide of the post from 25 yards out.
Shelvey should have done better when the Blues gave the ball away on the edge of our box, but his low drive was well saved by Caballero, and it was a missed opportunity the Magpies were made to pay for instantly as we moved upfield and doubled our lead.
Batshuayi’s clever flick found Pedro, who shifted the ball on to Hazard, and when his inch-perfect ball arrived back at the feet of Batshuayi, who had done well to time his run into the box, his strike deflected off the leg of Jamaal Lascelles and looped over Karl Darlow into the back of the net.
The first chance of the second half fell our way five minutes after the restart when Rudiger’s cross was only partially cleared and although Pedro reacted quickest, his left-footed curler was a fraction too high.
Alonso then forced a superb save from Darlow when he arrived at the far post to meet a Zappacosta cross, with his brilliantly-executed volley pushed away by the Newcastle goalkeeper.
Drinkwater then dragged a strike wide from a decent position following good build-up play between Pedro and Batshuayi as we looked to put the game out of the visitors’ reach.
The third goal which we had been threatening to score since half-time eventually arrived, from the boot of Alonso, with just under 20 minutes remaining.
Zappacosta was brought down 25 yards from goal following an impressive, direct run, and from the resulting free-kick Alonso curled a delightful strike over the wall and into the top corner.
With the third goal all but wrapping the game up, Conte introduced Barkley – making his home debut – for Hazard and then replaced N’Golo Kante with Ethan Ampadu.
Darlow made a couple of important stops in quick succession, from Pedro and Zappacosta, to ensure it remained 3-0 and with 10 minutes remaining there was a Chelsea debut for Academy attacker Hudson-Odoi, who only turned 17 in November, with the youngster coming on to replace Pedro for the closing stages of the game.
Batshuayi almost walked away with the match ball for the second time this season, but the Belgian was thwarted by a couple of impressive Darlow saves in the dying minutes, first at the near post and then after latching on to a clever Barkley pass.
Most importantly, though, it was a return to winning ways for Conte's side, and we now wait to find out who we will face in the fifth round when the draw is made tomorrow night.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Caballero; Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill (c); Zappacosta, Drinkwater, Kante (Ampadu 77), Alonso; Pedro (Hudson-Odoi 80), Batshuayi, Hazard (Barkley 72).
Unused subs: Eduardo, Moses, Fabregas, Musonda
Scorers Batshuayi 31 and 44, Alonso 71
Newcastle United (3-5-1-1): Darlow; Mbemba, Lascelles (c), Clark; Manquillo (Murphy 77), Shelvey, Saivet, Hayden (Atsu 83), Haidara; Ritchie; Gayle (63).
Unused subs: Woodman, Yedlin, Dummett, Diame
Booked Mbemba 16
Referee Kevin Friend