Nicolas Anelka maintained his impressive start to life under Luiz Felipe Scolari to help Chelsea to a convincing 3-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion and into the Premier League record books. The France striker took his personal goal tally for the season to 13 as the Blues made it ten successive away wins in the league, and confirmed the worst fears of Baggies manager Tony Mowbray.
Mowbray's candid admission that there are times when he goes into a game knowing that his side cannot win certainly proved true as Chelsea exposed their huge gulf in class over the Premier League's bottom side, in clambering back to the head of the title race.
A few hours earlier, they had lost their seat at the summit as a result of Liverpool's defeat of Bolton Wanderers, but Chelsea are in no mood to surrender that position on a permanent basis under the guidance of the Scolari. The Brazilian has performed wonders in his early months at Stamford Bridge, but his most telling contribution has been his impact on Nicolas Anelka.
The 29-year-old again ensured Didier Drogba had to be satisfied with a place on the substitutes' bench. Anleka had already managed more goals on his own this season than West Brom collectively prior to kick-off, and he made that statistic more embarrassing with two superb finishes in the last eight minutes of the first half.
His first was the result of Albion's inability to clear their defensive lines, allowing Florent Malouda to guide a header into vast acres of space between Scott Carson and his defence. Anelka's devastating pace to reach the ball first was matched with a sublime clip to break the deadlock.
Jose Bosingwa doubled Chelsea's lead, his swerving shot from the corner of the penalty area flying into the back of the net despite Carson getting a hand to the ball.
Abdoulaye Meite could not have wished for a more difficult return game after a spell of inactivity with a thigh injury, and in first half stoppage time his lack of action was cruelly exposed by the irrepressible Anelka. Again his pace was simply too much to cope with, but he was assisted by some more uncertain goalkeeping from Carson, who allowed Anelka's shot to beat him at the near post.
Only a wonderfully brave intervention by Jonas Olsson deprived Anelka of a hat-trick, while Deco and Salomon Kalou were both guilty of taking one touch too many when they could see the whites of Carson's eyes.
Drogba was unable to get into the act himself in a final 15 minute cameo, but there was still time for Malouda to waste another wonderful opportunity and the only consolation for Mowbray and his team was avoiding a heavier defeat.