Juan Mata starred on his full debut as Chelsea cruised past a toothless Sunderland side despite a late scare.
John Terry's measured side-foot shot gave the Blues the lead after the hosts failed to clear their lines when Mata's free-kick hit the outside of the post.
Daniel Sturridge's sublime backheel finish when running through one on one with keeper Simon Mignolet made it 2-0.
Ji Dong-Won slotted home in injury time to give the Black Cats a glimmer of hope but Chelsea held on.
It was a nervy final few seconds but even the most diehard Sunderland supporter would have struggled to argue a draw would have been a fair result.
Chelsea boss happy with 'dominant' display
Sturridge's outrageous effort when confronted by the onrushing Mignolet was the stand-out moment in an impressive Blues performance, but Mata's influence was the key to their victory.
The Spaniard was the creative hub of everything the Blues did, demanding the ball at every opportunity and giving a dazzling display, full of one-touch football, neat passes and crucially, a telling final ball.
Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas has openly talked of the need to inject more pace and creativity and Mata granted his wish, playing with urgency and sparking off all that was good about the visitors as they secured a third win in four league games.
Chelsea and Mata started brightly but Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner had the first chance of the game only to glance his header wide from a teasing Sebastian Larsson free-kick.
“Chelsea have for so many years been Drogba and Lampard-based and there is a subtle style change going on behind the scenes. They weren't at their best but it was the best they have played this season and they didn't need to get out of third gear because Sunderland were poor ”
Jonathan PearceBBC Match of the Day commentator
Apart from that effort - and a Stephane Sessegnon strike that was beaten away by the returning Petr Cech late in the half - Chelsea dominated the first period.
Nicholas Anelka smashed a shot wide after a swift break and also tested Mignolet with a fierce shot, while Ramires curled a shot wide after a powerful surge.
But it was defender Terry who opened the scoring, coolly finishing at the second attempt from Sturridge's excellent cross as Chelsea kept the pressure on after Mata's strike hit the woodwork.
Any hopes of a Sunderland revival seemed over as Sturridge, preferred up front to £50m man Fernando Torres, made it 2-0 six minutes after break.
The game petered out somewhat after that, although substitute Florent Malouda and Anelka both had chances to extend the lead.
The Dane typified the home side, showing plenty of endeavour but they looked powerless to prevent a second consecutive home defeat as Chelsea went on to record their 13th win in 14 games against the Black Cats despite Dong-Won's last-gasp effort.
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce:
"It was very difficult against a very good Chelsea team. They had terrific possession of the ball and we spent that much energy trying to get it back. They were excellent in possession of the ball. We will play against lesser teams than that thankfully.
"When we had it, we gave it away too cheaply and that made for a very difficult afternoon.
"But for all their possession both their goals were poor from our point of view."
Chelsea manager Andre-Villas Boas:
"It went very well for us in terms of what we want to achieve, not that we haven't tried to do it before, but it just didn't happen in the other three games.
Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge pleased by 'cheeky goal'
"Fortunately, we were able to play the passing game that relates more to how we train, and the team played very, very well. I am very happy with the display.
"The 2-1, of course, is avoidable and that brought an edge to the last three minutes, but we can only say that Chelsea deserved to win and we were very consistent in the first and second halves.
Raul Meireles takes a shot. Jack Colback gets a block in. Corner taken short by Florent Malouda.
90:00 +1:14 Booking
Booking Jose Bosingwa is shown a yellow card.
Assist on the goal came from Nicklas Bendtner.
90:00 +0:27 Goal scored
Goal! - Dong-Won Ji - Sunderland 1 - 2 Chelsea Goal scored by Dong-Won Ji from deep inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Sunderland 1-2 Chelsea.
Ahmed Elmohamady produces a right-footed shot from just outside the area that goes harmlessly over the target.
Dong-Won Ji delivers the ball, John Terry manages to make a clearance.
Craig Gardner takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Blocked by John Terry.
The ball is crossed by Jose Bosingwa, clearance made by Titus Bramble.
A cross is delivered by Ahmed Elmohamady, John Terry makes a clearance.
The ball is crossed by Jack Colback, John Terry makes a clearance.
The ball is delivered by Florent Malouda.
Substitution Stephane Sessegnon goes off and Dong-Won Ji comes on.
Florent Malouda produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the goal.
Corner taken short by Florent Malouda.
Substitution Oriol Romeu joins the action as a substitute, replacing Nicolas Anelka.
Centre by Stephane Sessegnon, save by Petr Cech.
The offside flag is raised against Frank Lampard. Free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
The ball is swung over by Nicolas Anelka.
Shot from just outside the penalty box by Stephane Sessegnon misses to the left of the target.
Connor Wickham fouled by John Terry, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Sebastian Larsson from right channel, clearance made by Branislav Ivanovic.
Substitution Juan Mata leaves the field to be replaced by Fernando Torres.
The ball is swung over by Ashley Cole, Wes Brown manages to make a clearance.
Nicolas Anelka takes a shot. Save by Simon Mignolet.
Corner taken left-footed by Juan Mata from the left by-line, clearance made by Connor Wickham.
Frank Lampard delivers the ball, clearance by Sebastian Larsson.
Corner taken by Juan Mata, Nicklas Bendtner manages to make a clearance.
A cross is delivered by Juan Mata, clearance by Wes Brown.
Connor Wickham is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Petr Cech takes the free kick.
Sebastian Larsson sends in a cross, Header by Connor Wickham from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.
Substitution Lee Cattermole leaves the field to be replaced by Connor Wickham.
Shot from just outside the box by Lee Cattermole goes over the crossbar.
The ball is crossed by Jack Colback, Nicklas Bendtner takes a shot. Branislav Ivanovic gets a block in.
Florent Malouda takes a shot. Save by Simon Mignolet.
Substitution (Sunderland) makes a substitution, with Ahmed Elmohamady coming on for Phillip Bardsley.
Substitution Florent Malouda joins the action as a substitute, replacing Daniel Sturridge.
Corner taken by Sebastian Larsson from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by Jose Bosingwa.
Corner from the right by-line taken by Sebastian Larsson, Lee Cattermole takes a shot. Blocked by Ramires.
Ashley Cole is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Indirect free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
Assist on the goal came from Raul Meireles.
50:03 Goal scored
Goal! - Daniel Sturridge - Sunderland 0 - 2 Chelsea Daniel Sturridge finds the net with a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Sunderland 0-2 Chelsea.
Short corner taken by Daniel Sturridge, Effort from 20 yards by Daniel Sturridge. Phillip Bardsley gets a block in.
Ashley Cole produces a cross, clearance by Lee Cattermole.
The referee blows for offside. Phillip Bardsley takes the free kick.
Shot from just outside the penalty area by Nicolas Anelka misses to the left of the target.
The ball is delivered by Phillip Bardsley, Craig Gardner takes a shot. Petr Cech makes a save.
The referee gets the second half underway.
45:00 +2:16 Half time
Half Time It is the end of the first-half.
Centre by Ramires.
Kieran Richardson sends in a cross, Header by Sebastian Larsson from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.
A cross is delivered by Phillip Bardsley, Branislav Ivanovic manages to make a clearance.
Inswinging corner taken by Sebastian Larsson, clearance made by Raul Meireles.
Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.
Phillip Bardsley takes a shot. Blocked by Ramires.
Jose Bosingwa takes a shot. Lee Cattermole gets a block in.
Corner taken left-footed by Juan Mata from the right by-line to the near post, Nicklas Bendtner manages to make a clearance.
Nicolas Anelka produces a drilled right-footed shot from 20 yards. Blocked by Wes Brown.
The ball is sent over by Jack Colback, save by Petr Cech.
Nicolas Anelka fouled by Sebastian Larsson, the ref awards a free kick. Frank Lampard restarts play with the free kick.
The ball is sent over by Jose Bosingwa.
Nicolas Anelka takes a shot. Save by Simon Mignolet.
Raul Meireles takes a shot. Blocked by Kieran Richardson.
Kieran Richardson produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty area that goes harmlessly over the target.
Corner taken by Sebastian Larsson from the right by-line played to the near post, Raul Meireles manages to make a clearance.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Raul Meireles on Stephane Sessegnon. Free kick taken by Phillip Bardsley.
Unfair challenge on Nicolas Anelka by Wes Brown results in a free kick. Nicolas Anelka takes the free kick.
Centre by Stephane Sessegnon.
Ramires produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that goes wide right of the target.
Effort on goal by Nicolas Anelka from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the goal.
Jack Colback concedes a free kick for a foul on Ramires. Branislav Ivanovic restarts play with the free kick.
Booking Jack Colback is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.
Assist by Nicolas Anelka. Jose Bosingwa has an effort at goal from outside the area which goes wide left of the target.
17:43 Goal scored
Goal! - John Terry - Sunderland 0 - 1 Chelsea John Terry finds the back of the net with a goal from inside the six-yard box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Sunderland 0-1 Chelsea.
Nicolas Anelka fouled by Lee Cattermole, the ref awards a free kick. Strike on goal comes in from Juan Mata from the free kick.
Nicklas Bendtner is caught offside. John Terry takes the indirect free kick.
Phillip Bardsley sends in a cross, Branislav Ivanovic manages to make a clearance.
The ball is swung over by Phillip Bardsley.
Raul Meireles challenges Stephane Sessegnon unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Sebastian Larsson, Headed effort from inside the area by Nicklas Bendtner misses to the left of the goal.
Frank Lampard decides to take a short corner.
Centre by Ashley Cole, Phillip Bardsley manages to make a clearance.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Branislav Ivanovic by Nicklas Bendtner. Free kick taken by Frank Lampard.
Foul by Craig Gardner on Jose Bosingwa, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Jose Bosingwa.
Branislav Ivanovic fouled by Craig Gardner, the ref awards a free kick. John Terry takes the direct free kick.
The ball is swung over by Ashley Cole, Kieran Richardson makes a clearance.
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