A Frank Lampard brace saw Chelsea end Everton’s unbeaten home record with a 2-1 Premier League win at Goodison Park.
Everton scored for the 17th Premier League game in succession as early as the second minute through Steven Pienaar, but Lampard was on hand to restore parity with a powerful header just before half-time.
The Toffees, who had been unbeaten in seven games and at home in the league all season, suffered the killer blow in the 72nd minute as Lampard netted his second of the afternoon to stretch Rafael Benitez’s side’s winning run in all competitions to four games.
Benitez made three changes from the Boxing Day win at Norwich with Ramires, Lampard and Eden Hazard restored to the starting line-up, while Everton boss David Moyes made two changes from the win over Wigan with John Heitinga and Steven Naismith coming in for the injured Phil Neville and Darron Gibson.
Benitez has now won six and drawn one of his last seven Premier League meetings with Everton, but his side slipped behind with just over a minute on the clock as Pienaar pounced to drive home the rebound after Victor Anichebe headed against the near post from Phil Jagielka’s deep cross out on the right.
The hosts struck the woodwork again in the eighth minute – for the 16th time this season - as Nikica Jelavic was denied by the near post after he cleared the wall with an exquisite free-kick from 25 yards, with Petr Cech left rooted to the spot in the Chelsea goal.
Cech had to be alert minutes later as he parried a rasping strike from Leon Osman wide, while at the other end Tim Howard was called into action as he saved with his legs to deny Juan Mata from close range.
Ashley Cole slid agonisingly short of turning in a fizzing ball from Hazard across the six-yard box on the half-hour mark, and Chelsea were almost caught out on the counter-attack seconds later as Jelavic latched on to a long ball and forced Cech into a fine save at his far post.
Despite a sluggish start to the match, Chelsea drew level with their hosts in the 42nd minute as Lampard produced a powerful header from just outside the Everton six-yard box for a clinical finish from Ramires's dinked cross out on the right flank. It was his first headed goal since last November against Blackburn Rovers.
Cech’s 400th appearance for Chelsea ended prematurely due to injury as Ross Turnbull was brought on as an enforced change at half-time to make his first league appearance of the season.
The second half was a similarly chaotic affair, with Torres and Jelavic both ruled fractionally offside and denied clear-cut opportunities at either end within the space of a minute early on.
Torres stung the palms of Howard in the Everton goal with a fierce strike from the edge of the box, and it was a fine stop from the American keeper after the Chelsea forward was afforded far too much time and space.
At the other end, Turnbull, who endured a shaky start with two fluffed clearances, made a fine save to deny Osman to his left with his side almost caught out on the counter attack.
Jelavic was again cruelly denied by the woodwork in the 70th minute as he stooped to head beyond Cech and against the crossbar from Baines's pinpoint cross out on the left, and Everton came agonisingly close once more.
The hosts were ruthlessly punished two minutes later as Lampard drove an emphatic finish into the net from close range to double his tally after Mata saw his initial effort saved by Howard. Everton had crucially failed to clear from inside their box.
A period of relentless Everton pressure ensued in the final minutes, but it was Torres who had the best chance late on as Sylvain Distin made a quite brilliant last-gasp challenge to prevent the forward from getting a shot away with just the defender and Howard to beat from inside the box.
The victory moves Chelsea above Tottenham and into third place in the Premier League table, with captain Lampard given a standing ovation from the travelling supporters at full-time.
Everton, meanwhile, were left to rue the loss of their unbeaten home record as they were unable to make further ground from sixth.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Frank Lampard (Chelsea): The skipper produced an inspired performance for his side from the heart of the midfield, with two well-taken goals to show for his display.
MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS