Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino labelled the result a “massive three points”, but stopped short of claiming his side had now effectively guaranteed themselves a spot in next season’s Champions League.
But this win, featuring wonderful goals from Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, opens up a gap of eight points to their defeated opponents in fifth.
After a start that had been short of quality in the final third it was perhaps inevitable that the first goal was brought about by error more than marvellous skill or tactical nous.
Half an hour into the game, Antonio Rudiger stepped confidently out of the Chelsea defence, took the ball past two players and stroked it down the right wing to present Willian with a straightforward opportunity to send a ball into the Tottenham box.
That ball was not especially threatening, but keeper Hugo Lloris made a hash of an attempt to claim it and grasped air. Behind him jumped Davinson Sanchez but, expecting the French goalkeeper to catch the ball, the centre-back ducked out of the way, allowing Alvaro Morata a free header into an open net.
Chelsea grew in confidence following their unsightly opener and as the half drew to a close only one side looked like winning this crucial London derby.
But then Tottenham conjured a marvellous equaliser as the clock ticked into stoppage time. They had been unable to break through a solid home defence by their usual means of swift, short passing, and their frustration was plainly evident when Christian Eriksen picked the ball up some 30 yards out from goal.
The Dane took a touch to set it out from his feet, before striking a dipping, swerving, curling shot that seemed to flatten Willy Caballero as it flew past his disbelieving face and into his previously unthreatened goal.
Pochettino called it “one of” the best goals he’d seen Eriksen score, but it is difficult to recall which other goals would sit in that top bracket of praise alongside such a wonderful strike.
The home side seemed unable to recover from the shock of that equaliser. Manager Antonio Conte said afterwards that he believed the goal had “created a problem in the minds” of his players, that it had caused his players to “lose a bit of their confidence” coming so close to the end of a half that he believed his side had dominated.
He even went so far as to say that they should have “finished the first half at 2-0 or 3-0 [up].”
And his side did look especially lethargic when, on the hour-mark, Eric Dier sent a long, straight, and seemingly unthreatening ball over the top of the Chelsea back line. On the end of it was Dele Alli, whose touch and poke past Caballero was just as special as Eriksen’s long-range effort, and fully warranted the insolent stride past the home faithful in the celebrations that followed.
There was little for that home faithful to put their faith in thereafter. And Spurs took just four more minutes to score their third and clinch the ame.
Son Heung-Min broke fast down the right and prodded through the legs of Caballero. The Argentinian ‘keeper did enough to stop the ball going in at the first attempt but he was a passive bystander as the ball hit him from Son’s second effort and he was unable to stop Dele Alli at the third.
The 21-year-old, on his 100th Premier League appearance for Tottenham, scooped the ball home with his weaker left foot, after Marcos Alonso and Andreas Christensen had comically contrived to fall over one another during an attempt to mop up the mess.
Alli’s brace marked a return to form in a season that has seen the midfielder come in for criticism over a perceived failure to match the highs of his first two. Pochettino said he was “so happy for him because he has worked so hard”.
“He is only 21-years-old,” Pochettino added. “Sometimes the expectation is too much, there is too much pressure on his shoulders. He doesn’t need to show us [Tottenham] anything because we trust and believe in him. He has a strong personality and a strong character.”
Caballero 6; Azpilicueta 6, Christensen 5, Rüdiger 6; Moses 5, Fabregas 6, Kanté 6, Alonso 5; Willian 5, Morata 6, Hazard 5.
Giroud for Moses 81, Emerson for Alonso 83, Hudson-Odoi for Morata 88.
Lloris 6; Trippier 7, Sanchez 7, Vertonghen 8, Davies 7; Dier 7, Dembélé 8; Lamela 7, Alli 9, Eriksen 8; Son Heung-Min 8.
Kane for Son 73, Wanyama for Dier 81, Sissoko for Lamela 88.