Victor Anichebe struck in the 87th minute to help West Bromwich Albion prevent Chelsea from opening up a four-point lead in the Premier League by drawing the Blues 1-1 on Tuesday.
Chelsea were bidding to pull clear of the chasing pack and Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic put them on course to do so when he slammed home David Luiz’s back-heel in first-half injury time.
Oscar, Samuel Eto’o and Willian all spurned chances to extend the visitors’ lead and West Brom forward Thievy Bifouma almost punished them with a low shot that flashed across the face of goal in the latter stages.
Jose Mourinho’s side seemed to be on the brink of victory, when, with three minutes remaining, Saido Berahino curled in a cross from the left and Anichebe got in front of Luiz and goalkeeper Petr Cech to head home the equalizer.
The Nigerian striker’s goal means that Chelsea could slip to third place after yesterday’s games, having only taken the summit at the weekend.
Second-placed Arsenal will return to the top if they win at home to Manchester United, while third-place Manchester City can leapfrog Chelsea on goal-difference by overcoming Sunderland.
“We were comfortable in the game, maybe too comfortable. We didn’t kill the game when we had the chance,” Mourinho said. “In this moment we have one more point than before. If Arsenal and City win tomorrow [yesterday] they go above us, but that is their job. Every game is difficult and every team needs points.”
The draw pulled West Brom out of the relegation zone at Sunderland’s expense.
“I am very pleased. The players worked hard and were strong. If we scored the goal earlier, we would win the game,” West Brom manager Pepe Mel said. “[It’s been] 1-1 against Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea. Now we need to win our next game [at home to Fulham on Feb. 22]. West Brom next season will be in the Premier League.”
Also on Tuesday, second-from-bottom Cardiff City squandered an opportunity to haul themselves toward safety after being held to a 0-0 draw by Aston Villa.
Cardiff hit the woodwork twice in the space of a minute in the first half, with Fraizer Campbell and Craig Noone denied in a game that left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side two points below West Brom.
In other league play, West Ham United eased their relegation fears with a 2-0 win at home to struggling Norwich City.
The visitors created chances throughout the game, but West Ham stole ahead in the 84th when centerback James Collins nodded Mohamed Diame’s cross past Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy.
Diame then struck in the fourth minute of injury-time to hand a third consecutive victory without conceding a goal to Sam Allardyce’s side, who climbed to 10th place in the tables.
“I’m delighted. It was a hell of a game Norwich gave us tonight,” Allardyce said. “Our goalkeeper kept us in the game and we scored late, when it is hard for anybody to come back into it”
In the evening’s other match, Southampton leapfrogged Newcastle United into eighth place with a 1-0 win at Hull City that put the Saints within two points of holders Manchester United.
Southampton’s Jose Fonte settled the game in the 69th minute, ramming home on the third try after his header was saved by Steve Harper and Jay Rodriguez’s follow-up was also blocked.