Chelsea manager Frank Lampard out-manouevred his one-time mentor Jose Mourinho – but a comfortable win at Tottenham was overshadowed by alleged racist behaviour aimed at visiting defender Antonio Rudiger.
Rudiger was involved in the second-half incident that saw Tottenham’s Son Heung-min sent off.
The striker was dismissed, following a video assistant referee review, for raising his boot in a clash with the German centre-back near the touchline.
Shortly afterwards, Rudiger, 26, appeared to gesticulate that he had received racist abuse from Spurs fans.
Chelsea drew the incident to the attention of referee Anthony Taylor and three subsequent announcements were made over the public address system warning that racist behaviour among spectators was interfering with the game.
The match was also held up when objects were thrown towards Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, capping a miserable afternoon for Spurs and Mourinho against his former club.
It marred an outstanding Chelsea display that halted their recent slide, with the game effectively won inside the first 45 minutes courtesy of Willian’s superb curling finish and a penalty from the Brazilian awarded by VAR after Spurs keeper Paulo Gazzaniga had flattened Marcos Alonso.
Chelsea’s victory strengthened their grip on fourth place and left them four points above fifth-placed Sheffield United. Spurs remain in seventh place – six points adrift.
The attention should be on a superb performance from Chelsea and a tactical masterclass from Lampard, who completely flummoxed Mourinho on what was the Portuguese’s worst day in charge since succeeding Mauricio Pochettino.
Sadly, the subject of players being subjected to racist abuse will once again top the agenda, casting a cloud over Chelsea’s deserved celebrations at the final whistle.
Rudiger appeared to be the target after he was floored by Son’s raised boot which earned the South Korea international a deserved red card just after the hour.
Tottenham fans reacted angrily to Rudiger, who they felt over-reacted, even though he was clearly fouled.
The Chelsea defender signalled to indicate what he had apparently been subjected to by sections of the home support.
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta immediately spoke to referee Taylor; the unsavoury episode concluded with a succession of warnings over the stadium loudspeaker.
Lampard’s wild celebrations in front of Chelsea’s supporters after the final whistle were a graphic illustration of what he saw as the significance of this victory.
The subplot to this game had been built around the meeting between managerial rookie Lampard, in his first season at Chelsea and only his second in management after a single campaign at Derby County, and Mourinho, the self-styled ‘Special One’.
Mourinho had shared such glories alongside the former England midfield man during his time at Stamford Bridge, where they won two Premier League titles together.
On the pitch at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, there was only one winner: Chelsea were sharp and incisive while Spurs were ponderous and second best in all areas.
Mourinho and Spurs seemed totally unprepared for Chelsea’s three-man defensive system while the deployment of Dele Alli in a variety of positions in the first half hinted at the home side’s disarray.
The Tottenham manager introduced Christian Eriksen for Eric Dier at half-time, but Son’s red card snuffed out slim hopes of a comeback.
Chelsea regained their air of superiority as they returned to form having lost four of their previous five league games.