Chelsea fielded its weakest team of the season on Sunday but still edged Charlton 1-0 on Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's 28th-minute penalty at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea played with its "second team" after a dozen regulars were suspended, injured or absent.
Despite the missing, Chelsea still had much of the possession and started three of the league's top offensive players -- Frank Lampard, Adrian Mutu and Hasselbaink. Striker Eidur Gudjohnsen came on as a second-half substitute.
Hasselbaink converted the penalty after South African defender Mark Fish pulled down Mutu.
Mutu, who has not scored in five months, knocked a close-in shot off the post in the 85th and then was stopped from short range in the 88th by `keeper Dean Kiely.
The victory gave Chelsea 52 points and kept the Blues in touch with leading Arsenal (58) and No. 2 Manchester United (56). Newcastle and Charlton have 37 with the Magpies holding fourth place on goal difference.
Liverpool and Fulham are just behind with 35.
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson attended the match, but missed seeing many of the players Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has bought for ?120 million (US$220 million) since acquiring the club last summer.
Out injured were goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, Hernan Crespo, Juan Sebastian Veron, Damien Duff, Mario Stanic, Emmanuel Petit, Celestine Babayaro and Claude Makelele.
Scott Parker, signed recently from Charlton, was prohibited from playing under terms of the transfer. Joe Cole and John Terry were suspended and Geremi was away playing in the African Cup of Nations.
In Sunday's other match, Birmingham City played a 0-0 draw at Man City. Man City played the game without injured 19-goal scorer Nicolas Anelka. Man City is winless in 13 consecutive Premier League games.
Manager Kevin Keegan knows his job is in jeopardy.
"I am going to keep my head down, work hard and keep the players' spirits up. That's my job," Keegan said. "If the rest doesn't take care of itself we all know what happens."
Man City stayed four points above the relegation zone with 24. Leeds has 17 topped by Wolves (20) and Leicester (20). Birmingham City moved into 10th place with 32.