STOKE CITY produced a spirited away day display at Stamford Bridge but were unable to apply the brakes to Chelsea’s remarkable winning run.
The Potters twice came from behind to level matters in West London but still found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-2 scoreline as Chelsea recorded their 13th successive Premier League victory.
Bruno Martins Indi cancelled out Gary Cahill’s opener with his first goal for the Club, while Peter Crouch’s first league goal of the season made it two apiece after Willian had restored the home side’s lead.
Chelsea hit back again as Willian doubled his tally before Diego Costa made the game safe.
Mark Hughes made three changes to his starting line-up with Ibrahim Afellay, Charlie Adam and Xherdan Shaqiri returning at the expense of Glenn Whelan and Giannelli Imbula, who were relegated to the bench, and the injured Jon Walters.
For Afellay it represented a perfect way to end a frustrating 2016 with his first start since April when he suffered a knee ligament injury.
Chelsea, who went into the game six points clear at the head of the Premier League table, fired a seventh minute warning when N’Golo Kante drilled a shot narrowly wide of Lee Grant’s goal.
Grant was called into the action for the first time after 18 minutes as he produced a magnificent save to deny Diego Costa; the on-loan ‘keeper enjoyed a stroke of fortune as the rebound hit the Bruno Martins Indi and bounced into his hands.
Grant made another superb save to deny Cahill midway through the first half. The Chelsea skipper did everything right with his downward header from a corner but Grant stuck out a left hand and managed to parry.
The Potters had a great opportunity when they won a free-kick on the left-hand edge of the Chelsea area. Adam’s inventiveness found Shaqiri 12 yards out but his shot was horrible and he only succeeded in finding upper tier of the Matthew Harding Stand behind Thibaut Courtois’ goal.
Adam went close himself moments later with a glancing header from a corner with Crouch desperately trying to add the finishing touch at the far post.
Grant then produced another outstanding save to deny Eden Hazard but his resistance was broken from the resultant corner as Cahill was on hand to head home from six yards out.
It was bitter pill for the Potters to swallow but they bounced back immediately the break as Martins Indi fired them level.
Adam fired in a free-kick from close to the left-hand touchline and when Crouch rose highest to head the ball back across goal, Martins Indi was on hand to open his goal account for the Club with a cool finish.
That represented only the third goal Chelsea had conceded in their remarkable run of victories but was no more than City deserved after a determined and disciplined display.
Chelsea went in search of an almost immediate response and Willian fired narrowly wide of the target after former Stoke loanee Victor Moses had created an opening for him.
Grant made another excellent save look almost routine as he denied Costa but Chelsea edged back in front in the 57th minute when Willian drilled home from 12 yards out after more excellent work on the right by Moses.
Hughes made a double change in the 61st minute with Bojan and Imbula replacing Shaqiri and Afellay respectively.
It worked almost immediately as the Potters hauled themselves level for a second time - Bojan was heavily involved in the build-up and when Diouf drilled in a low cross from the right, Crouch was on hand to make it 2-2.
It didn’t stay that way for long, however, as Willian bagged his second – and Chelsea’s third – within barely 60 seconds, giving Grant no chance whatsoever after he had been afforded too much space in the area.
City went in search of a third goal and only superb defending by Cesar Azpilicueta denied Crouch a second 10 minutes from time. Johnson fired in a teasing cross from the right and with Crouch ready to pull the trigger the Chelsea man managed to get enough on the ball to divert it to safety.
Costa made the game safe for the table-toppers five minutes from time as he fired past Grant from an acute angle after out-muscling Martins Indi.