The goals came late in the game as the 100 per cent start to the league season continues and the recent poor run of results on Tyneside is ended.
Eden Hazard, on his return to the starting line-up, made the initial breakthrough against a resolute Newcastle with a 76th-minute penalty, just reward in a game we had dominated, Toni Rudiger having struck the bar shortly before.
However the Geordies with only their second effort on goal of the game managed to equalise six minutes later and it looked like frustration again in the North-East, where we had not won since 2011.
Marcos Alonso, hero of last Saturday’s late win against Arsenal and the player fouled for the penalty here today, had other ideas. He shot towards the target with three minutes of the 90 left on the clock and Newcastle wing-back DeAndre Yedlin could only stretch and poke it into his net for an own-goal. Three deserved points were the Blues. We may have conceded, but there had been none of the shakiness seen in that period before half-time a week earlier against the Gunners.
This weekend Maurizio Sarri decided the time was right for Hazard to start a game, a judgement he also applied to Mateo Kovacic. Those two players, both involved in the latter stages of the World Cup, came in for Willian and Ross Barkley in the only changes from the opening two wins.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez had expressed his unhappiness with aspects of his side’s performance in their previous outing, a 0-0 draw at Cardiff, and that was reflected in his selection today with six changes made. One of those was enforced. Kenedy, on-loan from Chelsea, was ineligible to play.
Hazard declared himself 200 per cent ready in a pre-match interview and he would go on to complete the game, although it took less than a minute from kick-off for the Belgian to receive the first painful kick on the Achilles. It was not to be the only time he was downed this afternoon.
Goalmouth action was scarce in the opening quarter-of-an-hour. One of the Newcastle changes, Jacob Murphy, had a low shot saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga and at the other end, Cesar Azpilicueta, on the occasion of his 200th Premier League game, came close to teeing up Alvaro Morata in front of goal with a ball slid across the wet turf, but that was about it.
Rudiger scooped an effort comfortably wide after the Geordies made hard work of dealing with a corner and Chelsea began to look the sharper side midway through the opening half. Neat touches in the centre of the park were linking up and we were nicking the ball in the home team’s half. Hazard curled a shot wide, but it was the best attempt yet by either side.
A swift move from our own half resulted in a Morata drive, deflected wide, shortly before Hazard was too quick for tracked-back centre-forward Salomon Rondon but was prevented from hitting the target by a robust challenge from Mohamed Diame, just as he was releasing the shot.
For Newcastle, Rondon did go close with a header after a set-piece which lifted a home support that had been subdued by Chelsea’s domination of the ball, but the Geordies were soon grateful that Pedro was wayward with one shot over the bar before having another saved in quick succession. There were 10 minutes to go to the interval.
When Hazard opened the Toon defence up on the stroke of half-time and the ball was only half-cleared, Azpi’s sweet strike looked momentarily goalbound but unfortunately it hit Morata on its way. That was unlucky, but despite some crisp play, Chelsea had been thwarted in the first 45 minutes by well-organised hosts who were defending in numbers.
A quick ball out to Pedro from Hazard after he had spotted the Spaniard’s run did open up space early in the second half but Azpilicueta’s subsequent shot was saved. Down that same flank, Jorginho and Azpi exchanged passes and the ball was threaded through to Morata but his touch was too strong and the chance to shoot escaped.
The Blues continued to work the ball around the Newcastle half. Benitez’s side continued to keep plenty of men behind the ball. It was still 0-0.
On 65 minutes the ref had seen one too many fouls on Hazard and booked Fabian Schar. As he was doing so, Olivier Giroud replaced Morata, to bring a new approach to finding a way through the black-and-white block. Willian on for Pedro soon followed, as did two more Newcastle bookings. There was a feeling the game was building towards some sort of climax, and so it proved.
Firstly, Rudiger unleashed a rocket towards the goal situated far below where the Chelsea fans were located. It swerved away from the keeper’s dive but not below the crossbar, which it thumped against. So close!
Fortunately we were not left to rue that escape for our opponents long. A ball played forward quickly from the back meant more space than normal down our left and from Hazard's pass, Alonso was able to attack in the box. He initially eased his way past Schar whose attempted recovery tackle went through our left-back’s legs and tripped him. Penalty whistled referee Paul Tierney. Hazard did the rest with powerful dispatch to Martin Dubravka’s right.
The lead lasted only six minutes though. Chelsea were left unhappy that Yedlin’s elbow grounded Giroud before the wing-back crossed but when the ball did come in, substitute Joselu nipped in front of David Luiz to head in at the near post to equalise with 83 minutes played.
There was still time to respond and Sarri’s side did just that. Newcastle did not clear their lines after a free-kick with 87 minutes on the clock and from out wide, Alonso drilled towards the target and the Newcastle boot diverted it in.
Nine points from nine and in second place behind Liverpool on goal difference, with two home games next to come.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta (c), David Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic (Barkley 79), Pedro (Willian 68), Morata (Giroud 65), Hazard.
Unused subs Caballero, Christensen, Zappacosta, Loftus-Cheek.
Scorers Hazard 76 pen, Yedlin o.g. 87
Booked Kovacic 40
Newcastle (5-4-1): Dubravka; Yedlin, Schar (Muto 79), Fernandez, Clark, Dummett (c); Ritchie, Diame, Ki, Murphy (Perez 73); Rondon (Joselu 62).
Unused subs Darlow, Sterry, Langstaff, Atsu.
Scorer Joselu 83
Booked Schar 65, Fernandez 68, Ritchie 70
Referee Paul Tierney