Chelsea know it will take a hell of a lot to finish ahead of both Manchester City and Liverpool in the final Premier League table this season and any slip-ups will be punished.
Saturday’s clash with Leeds threatened to be just that, but the Blues showed enough resolve and grit to get over the line and secure a 3-2 victory without playing particularly well. It is precisely these kinds of performances that can prove pivotal and decisive in a title race.
After the gut punch of conceding a late equaliser in the Champions League in Russia in midweek and losing a seeded place in the last 16 draw as a result, Chelsea were far from their best as Leeds arrived at Stamford Bridge. It showed when the visitors took a first half lead.
Yet Chelsea fought back to lead before half-time, taking advantage of Leeds lapses to take a 2-1 lead into the interval. From there, Thomas Tuchel might have hoped that his team could assume control and see the game out, but Leeds refused to back down and eventually equalised with under 10 minutes remaining when teenage substitute Joe Gelhardt caught the home defence cold.
With Manchester City and Liverpool both grinding out 1-0 wins simultaneously as the action at Stamford Bridge was unfolding, a draw would have meant falling four points behind the leaders. The standards set over the last four seasons makes even a margin of just four points a mountain.
Going until the end, Chelsea got their lead back in stoppage time, drawing a foul from Matuesz Klich in the penalty area and punishing the Leeds midfielder for a naïve mistake. Jorginho, as he had done, earlier in the game, converted with incredible calm, picking the opposite side of the goal.
That victory and those three points ensures that Chelsea, in the hunt for a first Premier League title since 2016/17, stay within only two points – effectively just one game – of Manchester City.
The hallmark of champions is getting wins when you don’t necessarily deserve them and that is exactly what Chelsea did in this one. Small margins are everything in this era of the Premier League and it could yet be that, come May, this is one of the crucial moments to look back on.