Frank Lampard scored a last-gasp winner as Chelsea secured a first win in five matches with a gutsy and much-improved display against Wolves at Molineux.
Stephen Ward seemed to have earned the hosts a point when he smashed Steven Fletcher's cross low into the net.
But Chelsea, who led through a Ramires strike, won it when Lampard volleyed in Ashley Cole's brilliant cross.
Kevin Doyle almost snatched a point in injury time but his header was superbly saved by Blues keeper Petr Cech.
It was a spectacular save and a fitting way to finish off a pulsating match that Chelsea will feel they fully deserved to win.
The hosts had two spells in either half where they rattled the visitors and had they not wasted two stunning chances in the latter stages of the first period, they would probably have avoided a fifth home league defeat of the season.
But Chelsea dominated possession and showed signs of the unity that many had doubted existed in their dressing room with a disciplined, professional performance.
However it was almost a disastrous start as a sloppy Jose Bosingwa pass could easily have gifted Wolves a first-minute opener.
David Edwards failed to connect with his effort and Chelsea's packed midfield then began to get on top.
Oriol Romeu, playing in his familiar holding role, laid the defensive platform with Lampard and Raul Meireles deployed further forward and the hosts struggled to get a foothold in the game in the first 25 minutes.
The much-maligned Fernando Torres, back in the side because of injuries to Daniel Sturridge and Didier Drogba, flourished early on and almost set up goals for both Juan Mata and Lampard.
Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey did brilliantly to race out and block Mata's strike after a delightful first-time Torres pass, and defender Richard Stearman then did enough to put off Lampard with the midfielder poised to shoot home following another astute Torres through-ball.
An increasingly confident Torres even tried an audacious 60-yard effort on goal after winning the ball on halfway, only for his strike to drift closer to the corner flag than the goal.
Ramires also shot wide and an away goal seemed inevitable but Wolves were awoken from their slumbers by a very clumsy studs-up challenge by Lampard.
The England midfielder could easily have been sent off as he clattered into Adam Hamill, but his obvious attempts to pull out of the challenge and instant apology may have spared him.
Lampard's caution sparked a nine-minute spell that brought five yellow cards and saw Wolves rattle the Londoners with by far their best spell of the game.
Roger Johnson was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring with a powerful far-post header from Hamill's fine free-kick.
And moments later Stephen Ward missed the easiest chance of the afternoon, heading well wide from six yards after another excellent Hamill centre.
But as the temper levels dropped off, Chelsea began to boss things again.
Lampard, Bosingwa and Terry all went close before the break and although Hamill saw a decent strike blocked by John Terry, the Blues then went ahead when Ramires reacted quickly to lash the ball into the top corner following Mata's corner.
Chelsea seemed desperate to grab a second and avoid a nervy finale and a possible fourth 1-1 draw in five games.
Ramires tested Hennessey from wide on the right after showing blistering pace and some Torres trickery almost saw him create a one-on-one chance.
Wolves once again dragged themselves back into the game and appeared to have piled more misery on under-pressure Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas with an 84th-minute equaliser.
Matthew Jarvis crossed to the far post and when fellow substitute Fletcher turned the ball back into the danger area, Ward crashed the ball past Cech.
But Chelsea somehow rallied and Lampard showed typical drive to arrive in the box and steer the ball home from close range from Cole's inviting left-wing centre.
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy:
"I'm livid and disgusted. I should be talking about a well-earned point. We've given it away. Frank Lampard should not have been unmarked and putting the ball into the net. Defend the cross properly. We should have had a 1-1 draw.
"The second goal is rubbish to concede. Maybe we could have nicked a goal at the end but we have left them off the hook and I am sick.
"I get sick of talking about our spirit. Let's get points and talk about a well-earned point and not back-handed praise for getting back in the game and my team running about, which is a pre-requisite."
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas:
"It was an important win based on recent results. The team showed good strength of character to come back from negative results and to come away with a win today has a special flavour.
"It is excellent signs in the moments of difficulty that you can dig deep.
"It [conceding goals] has been happening a lot so to us in the last few minutes of games but you have to praise the response within a four-minute period. The players were magnificent today and it was a good, solid team win.
"We are united in our objectives."
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Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee ends the match.90:00 +3:30
Kevin Doyle takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.90:00 +1:46
Fernando Torres concedes a free kick for a foul on Christophe Berra. Wayne Hennessey takes the direct free kick.88:21
Assist by Ashley Cole.88:21 Goal scored
Goal! - Frank Lampard - Wolves 1 - 2 Chelsea Goal scored by Frank Lampard from inside the penalty box high into the middle of the goal. Wolverhampton 1-2 Chelsea.88:18
Ashley Cole crosses the ball,85:43
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Oriol Romeu by Matthew Jarvis. Raul Meireles takes the direct free kick.84:03
Centre by Steven Fletcher,84:00
Assist by Steven Fletcher.84:00 Goal scored
Goal! - Stephen Ward - Wolves 1 - 1 Chelsea Stephen Ward finds the net with a goal from inside the area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Wolverhampton 1-1 Chelsea.83:42
Unfair challenge on Christophe Berra by Fernando Torres results in a free kick. Wayne Hennessey takes the indirect free kick.82:57 Substitution
Substitution Josh McEachran replaces Juan Mata.81:54
The ball is delivered by Ramires, Roger Johnson makes a clearance.81:19
Adam Hammill produces a cross, clearance by Oriol Romeu.80:04
Corner taken by Frank Lampard from the right by-line, clearance by Christophe Berra.79:43
Juan Mata takes a shot. Richard Stearman gets a block in.79:32
A cross is delivered by Ashley Cole.74:57
Indirect free kick taken by Wayne Hennessey.74:57 Substitution
Substitution Kevin Foley joins the action as a substitute, replacing David Edwards.74:57
Unfair challenge on David Edwards by Fernando Torres results in a free kick.
Richard Stearman delivers the ball, save by Petr Cech.71:32
Juan Mata has an effort at goal from the edge of the box that misses to the right of the target.70:46
David Edwards takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.68:18
The ball is crossed by Fernando Torres, Karl Henry manages to make a clearance.67:09
A cross is delivered by Matthew Jarvis.66:47
Ramires takes a shot. Save by Wayne Hennessey.66:28
Raul Meireles delivers the ball.65:10
A cross is delivered by Ramires, Fernando Torres has an effort from just inside the box that misses to the left of the goal.63:10
Matthew Jarvis gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Ramires. Free kick taken by David Luiz.62:41
Fernando Torres gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Karl Henry. Free kick taken by Karl Henry.60:29 Substitution
Substitution Steven Fletcher comes on in place of Emmanuel Frimpong.59:14
A cross is delivered by Ramires, Richard Stearman makes a clearance.57:03
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephen Ward by Ramires. Wayne Hennessey takes the free kick.53:36
The assist for the goal came from John Terry.53:36 Goal scored
Goal! - Ramires - Wolves 0 - 1 Chelsea Goal scored by Ramires from inside the penalty box to the top left corner of the goal. Wolverhampton 0-1 Chelsea.53:18
Outswinging corner taken by Juan Mata from the left by-line,50:40
Shot on goal by Adam Hammill from just inside the area clears the crossbar.50:15
Kevin Doyle fouled by Ramires, the ref awards a free kick. Matthew Jarvis takes the free kick.49:49
The ball is sent over by Ramires, clearance made by Emmanuel Frimpong.49:05
The ball is crossed by Matthew Jarvis, Adam Hammill has an effort at goal. John Terry gets a block in.47:59
David Luiz fouled by Kevin Doyle, the ref awards a free kick. Jose Bosingwa takes the free kick.45:44
Raul Meireles sends in a cross.45:01
The second half kicks off.45:01 Substitution
Substitution Matthew Jarvis joins the action as a substitute, replacing Anthony Forde.45:00 +2:16 Half time
Half Time The players leave the pitch at half time.45:00 +1:11
Effort from the edge of the box by Kevin Doyle goes wide of the left-hand upright.45:00 +0:13
Inswinging corner taken by Juan Mata, John Terry has a headed effort from close range and clears the crossbar.45:00 +0:03
Jose Bosingwa takes a shot. Save by Wayne Hennessey.44:49
Juan Mata produces a cross.43:32
Frank Lampard takes a shot. Save by Wayne Hennessey.41:47
Centre by Oriol Romeu, Roger Johnson makes a clearance.40:52
Inswinging corner taken by Juan Mata, Wayne Hennessey makes a save.39:49
Juan Mata delivers the ball, clearance made by Richard Stearman.37:32
John Terry is penalised for a handball. Adam Hammill delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from right wing, clearance by John Terry.37:09
The referee blows for offside against Juan Mata. Wayne Hennessey takes the free kick.36:44
The ball is delivered by Ashley Cole, Adam Hammill makes a clearance.36:00
Free kick awarded for a foul by Kevin Doyle on Oriol Romeu. Free kick taken by John Terry.32:45
The ball is crossed by Adam Hammill, Header from close in by Stephen Ward misses to the left of the target.32:45 Booking
Booking Oriol Romeu receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.32:27
Foul by Oriol Romeu on Adam Hammill, free kick awarded.30:56
Adam Hammill produces a cross, Roger Johnson produces a header from deep inside the area and hits the post.30:56 Booking
Booking Kevin Doyle is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.29:30
Foul by Ashley Cole on Kevin Doyle, free kick awarded.26:53
Shot on goal comes in from Frank Lampard from the free kick, Emmanuel Frimpong gets a block in.26:53 Booking
Booking Karl Henry goes into the referee's book.26:40
Karl Henry challenges Fernando Torres unfairly and gives away a free kick.25:24
Petr Cech restarts play with the free kick.25:24 Booking
Booking Adam Hammill is given a yellow card.25:16
Adam Hammill challenges Ashley Cole unfairly and gives away a free kick.24:27
Roger Johnson takes the free kick.24:27 Booking
Booking Booking for Frank Lampard for unsporting behaviour.24:06
Frank Lampard concedes a free kick for a foul on Adam Hammill.23:40
Fernando Torres takes a shot. Christophe Berra gets a block in.22:27
A cross is delivered by Ramires.20:26
The ball is sent over by Ramires, clearance by Stephen Ward.19:34
The ball is swung over by Jose Bosingwa.18:18
Centre by Juan Mata.16:35
The ball is sent over by Ramires, clearance by Christophe Berra.13:59
Ramires takes a shot from 12 yards. Save by Wayne Hennessey.13:32
Inswinging corner taken by Juan Mata, Stephen Ward manages to make a clearance.12:37
Effort on goal by Ramires from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.11:46
Frank Lampard takes a shot. Save made by Wayne Hennessey.11:10
The ball is sent over by Ramires, Wayne Hennessey makes a save.6:54
Kevin Doyle challenges John Terry unfairly and gives away a free kick. Petr Cech takes the free kick.6:05
Ashley Cole challenges Emmanuel Frimpong unfairly and gives away a free kick. Roger Johnson restarts play with the free kick.4:46
Juan Mata delivers the ball.4:14
Foul by David Edwards on Juan Mata, free kick awarded. Juan Mata restarts play with the free kick.2:37
Foul by Christophe Berra on Fernando Torres, free kick awarded. Juan Mata has a direct shot on goal from the free kick.2:11
The ball is crossed by Ramires.0:17
David Edwards takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.0:00
The match has kicked off.
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