Carlos Tevez came out of exile to create Samir Nasri's late winner as Manchester City ensured they closed back in on leaders Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.
Roberto Mancini's side were facing the prospect of United maintaining a four-point gap at the top of the table after Gary Cahill's deflected shot put Chelsea ahead on the hour.
It was the signal for Mancini to bring outcast Tevez back into the fold for the first time since September, when it was claimed he refused to come on as a substitute during the Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich in Germany.
He came from the bench to remind City what they had been missing - and what he had missed in his absence - as City turned the game around to secure a vital victory to reduce the gap to a single point and ensure their destiny remains in their own hands, with United still to visit The Etihad in April.
Sergio Aguero put City level from the spot after 78 minutes after Michael Essien handled Pablo Zabaleta's shot to set up a grandstand finish and Tevez helped the outstanding Nasri to oblige with five minutes left. The Argentine's short pass opened up space for Nasri to lift a clever finish over Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.
The victory was City's 20th successive league win at home - the first club to achieve this feat since the inception of the Premier League 20 years ago and only the fourth in top flight history, joining Liverpool, Newcastle United and Preston North End.
City were placed at a serious pressure point when Chelsea took the lead - but responded with real character to show the self-belief that they can win their first title since 1967/68.
And with the talented Tevez rehabilitated, at least for now, Mancini has another big weapon back in his attacking armoury for the closing weeks of the season.
CITY SET NEW RECORD
- Manchester City have set a new Premier League record of 20 consecutive home wins. Only Liverpool, Newcastle and Preston North End have also done this in the top flight
In a first half that rarely touched the heights of quality, City exerted most of the pressure and created the more acceptable chances without getting any reward.
Zabaleta set up an early chance which David Silva drove over, while Nasri was desperately unlucky not to put City ahead in the eighth minute. He lifted a delicate finish over a flat-footed Cech, only to see it bounce back off the crossbar.
Chelsea were forced into an early reshuffle when Jose Bosingwa replaced Branislav Ivanovic, who had sustained a thigh muscle injury. And it was City who continued to dominate, with the out-of-sorts Mario Balotelli wasting a chance to ease the growing anxiety around The Etihad.
Just as Tevez warmed up to a smattering of applause, which he acknowledged, Frank Lampard conceded possession and the Italian raced clear only to see Cech get the merest of touches to divert an admittedly tame finish wide.
It was the Italian's last significant contribution of a listless evening and he was replaced by Gareth Barry during the half-time interval.
Nasri was once again frustrated by the woodwork after 54 minutes when Cech turned his cross on to the bar. Silva then turned the ball inches wide, so close in fact that many City fans celebrated a goal.
It was against the run of play that Chelsea took the lead on the hour. Cahill's shot took a deflection off Yaya Toure that completely wrong-footed Joe Hart, although City complained with some justification that David Luiz had nudged Barry in the build-up.
This was the signal for Mancini to order Tevez to prepare for his entrance, which he duly made at the expense of Nigel de Jong. The reception was mixed but the object of the exercise clear - to navigate a route back into the game.
Chelsea made a change of their own, sending on Didier Drogba for Fernando Torres, and Juan Mata broke the shackles to force Hart into a save at his near post.
City were level with 12 minutes left when substitute Essien, on for Raul Meireles, handled Zabaleta's powerful shot. Aguero stepped forward and made no mistake to set up the frantic finale that brought Nasri's winner and scenes of undiluted jubilation around The Etihad.
- 25 Hart
- 02 Richards
- 05 Zabaleta
- 22 Clichy
- 28 K Toure
- 19 Nasri Booked
- 21 Silva (Dzeko - 76' )
- 34 De Jong (Tevez - 66' )
- 42 Y Toure
- 16 Aguero
- 45 Balotelli (Barry - 46' )
- 30 Pantilimon
- 13 Kolarov
- 15 Savic
- 07 Milner
- 18 Barry
- 10 Dzeko
- 32 Tevez
- 01 Cech
- 02 Ivanovic (Bosingwa - 21' )
- 03 Cole
- 04 Luiz
- 24 Cahill
- 07 Ramires
- 08 Lampard Booked
- 10 Mata Booked
- 12 Mikel
- 16 Meireles (Essien - 58' )
- 09 Torres (Drogba - 73' )
- 22 Turnbull
- 17 Bosingwa
- 05 Essien
- 15 Malouda
- 11 Drogba
- 21 Kalou
- 23 Sturridge
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The match has reached full-time.90:00 +3:09
Effort on goal by Sergio Aguero from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the goal.90:00 +2:07
Overhead kick right-footed shot by Sergio Aguero. Save made by Petr Cech.90:00 +0:40
A cross is delivered by Didier Drogba.89:14
Edin Dzeko takes a shot. Michael Essien gets a block in.87:14 Booking
Booking Booking for Samir Nasri for persistent infringement.84:55
Carlos Tevez provided the assist for the goal.84:55 Goal scored
Goal! - Samir Nasri - Man City 2 - 1 Chelsea Samir Nasri fires in a goal from close in to the bottom right corner of the goal. Man City 2-1 Chelsea.84:28
Gael Clichy crosses the ball, save by Petr Cech.84:04
Carlos Tevez takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.82:23
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Samir Nasri, Unfair challenge on Frank Lampard by Gareth Barry results in a free kick. Petr Cech takes the indirect free kick.78:54 +4:07
Ramires takes a shot. Blocked by Kolo Toure.78:53
Samir Nasri takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.78:41 +4:07
Frank Lampard takes a shot. Save made by Joe Hart.77:00
Pablo Zabaleta takes a shot. Blocked by Michael Essien.77:55
Handball by Michael Essien.77:17
The assist for the goal came from Pablo Zabaleta.77:17 Goal scored
Goal! - Sergio Aguero - Man City 1 - 1 Chelsea Sergio Aguero scores a placed penalty. Man City 1-1 Chelsea.77:01
Samir Nasri takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Frank Lampard makes a clearance.76:13
Edin Dzeko takes a shot. Blocked by Ashley Cole.
Samir Nasri manages to make a clearance.74:56 Substitution
Substitution David Silva goes off and Edin Dzeko comes on.74:56
Juan Mata takes a shot. Petr Cech makes a save. Inswinging corner taken by Frank Lampard from the left by-line,73:12
Didier Drogba challenges Micah Richards unfairly and gives away a free kick. Gnegneri Toure Yaya takes the indirect free kick.72:16 Substitution
Substitution Didier Drogba comes on in place of Fernando Torres.71:55
A cross is delivered by Gareth Barry, David Luiz manages to make a clearance.70:43
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Sergio Aguero by David Luiz. Gnegneri Toure Yaya restarts play with the free kick.69:44
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Samir Nasri, save by Petr Cech. Petr Cech fouled by Kolo Toure, the ref awards a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Petr Cech.66:42
Gael Clichy takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.66:10
The ball is delivered by Pablo Zabaleta, David Luiz manages to make a clearance.65:12 Substitution
Substitution Nigel De Jong goes off and Carlos Tevez comes on.63:14
Handball decision goes against Juan Mata. Pablo Zabaleta takes the free kick.61:47
Unfair challenge on Jose Bosingwa by Gael Clichy results in a free kick. Jose Bosingwa takes the free kick.59:37
The assist for the goal came from Juan Mata.59:37 Goal scored
Goal! - Gary Cahill - Man City 0 - 1 Chelsea A goal is scored by Gary Cahill from inside the box low into the middle of the goal. Man City 0-1 Chelsea.59:17
Corner taken by Juan Mata, clearance made by Gnegneri Toure Yaya.57:22
Shot by Gnegneri Toure Yaya from outside the box goes over the target.57:22 Substitution
Substitution Michael Essien replaces Raul Meireles.57:22 Booking
Booking Frank Lampard goes into the book for unsporting behaviour.57:11
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Gnegneri Toure Yaya by Frank Lampard.56:41
Frank Lampard concedes a free kick for a foul on Gnegneri Toure Yaya. Nigel De Jong takes the free kick.54:53
David Silva takes a shot. Blocked by Petr Cech.54:35
David Silva takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line played to the near post, Sergio Aguero takes a shot from close range clearing the crossbar.51:42
The ball is sent over by Gael Clichy, save made by Petr Cech.49:51
Effort on goal by Samir Nasri from just inside the area clears the crossbar.47:16
Samir Nasri takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line to the near post.46:11
Samir Nasri has a volleyed shot. Blocked by Frank Lampard.45:01
The second half has started.45:01 Substitution
Substitution Gareth Barry joins the action as a substitute, replacing Mario Balotelli.45:00 +1:04 Half time
Half Time The match has reached half-time.43:48 Booking
Booking Juan Mata is shown a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.43:37
Unfair challenge on Gnegneri Toure Yaya by Juan Mata results in a free kick. Gnegneri Toure Yaya takes the free kick.42:24
Shot by Sergio Aguero from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.38:04
Free kick awarded for a foul by Fernando Torres on Micah Richards. Free kick taken by Pablo Zabaleta.37:09
Jose Bosingwa gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Sergio Aguero. Nigel De Jong takes the free kick.35:51
Handball decision goes against Mario Balotelli. David Luiz restarts play with the free kick.35:41
Gael Clichy crosses the ball, David Luiz manages to make a clearance.33:38
Gael Clichy challenges Fernando Torres unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Jose Bosingwa.31:20
The ball is swung over by Ramires.30:31
Free kick awarded for a foul by Micah Richards on Fernando Torres. Frank Lampard restarts play with the free kick.30:09
The referee gives a free kick against Mario Balotelli for handball. Free kick taken by David Luiz.29:30
Inswinging corner taken by David Silva from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance by Frank Lampard.28:44
Mario Balotelli takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech. Corner taken by Samir Nasri from the right by-line, Jose Bosingwa makes a clearance.28:12
Micah Richards gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Juan Mata. Ashley Cole takes the free kick.26:03
Samir Nasri takes a shot.24:38
Corner taken by Juan Mata, clearance by Kolo Toure.22:41
Corner taken by David Silva from the right by-line, clearance made by Frank Lampard.21:19
Centre by Raul Meireles, inswinging corner taken left-footed by Juan Mata, Pablo Zabaleta makes a clearance. Clearance by Kolo Toure.20:05 Substitution
Substitution (Chelsea) makes a substitution, with Jose Bosingwa coming on for Branislav Ivanovic.16:44
Branislav Ivanovic delivers the ball.14:02
Raul Meireles takes a shot. Kolo Toure gets a block in.11:55
Samir Nasri produces a cross, save by Petr Cech.11:21
Samir Nasri takes a inswinging corner to the near post, clearance by Mikel.7:51
Shot by Samir Nasri.7:08
Effort from the edge of the penalty box by Juan Mata goes wide of the right-hand upright.6:42
Juan Mata fouled by Pablo Zabaleta, the ref awards a free kick. Ashley Cole takes the indirect free kick.4:32
Effort on goal by David Silva from just inside the penalty area goes over the target.3:43
Foul by Gnegneri Toure Yaya on David Luiz, free kick awarded. Petr Cech takes the free kick.2:57
Corner taken by David Silva played to the near post, clearance by Juan Mata.1:40
Pablo Zabaleta takes a shot. Mikel gets a block in.1:06
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by David Silva from the right by-line to the near post, clearance by Fernando Torres.0:00
The game gets underway.
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