LONDON: Chelsea stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to 10 points after beating Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
A 37th-minute goal from Eden Hazard was the decisive difference between the teams and fired Jose Mourinho’s men closer to the title.
Victories in their next games at Arsenal and Leicester City will return the title to Stamford Bridge for the first time since 2010.
But Chelsea were pushed all the way by a resurgent United, hunting a seventh successive Premier League victory.
Wayne Rooney and the recalled Radamel Falcao came closest for United but once again they fell victim to the resilience and defensive strength that is Chelsea’s trademark under Mourinho, assisted by the brilliance of Hazard, and ended frustrated.
The reaction of Chelsea’s players as referee Mike Dean sounded the final whistle, celebrating wildly in front of their supporters, suggested they believed this was the victory that has pushed them to the brink of glory.
Captain John Terry said: “It was a massive win. They had the better possession. We have not been playing as well as we can of late but I think we are doing enough.
“We were in our best form early on in the season and just before Christmas but we are still getting results and that’s the mark of champions.”
Leicester off bottom
At the other end of the table Leicester City climbed off the bottom of the Premier League as a 2-0 home win over Swansea gave them a third successive victory.
The Foxes only remain in the relegation zone by virtue of goals difference after moving above Burnley and QPR and drawing level on points with Hull.
Leonardo Ulloa gave Leicester a 15th-minute lead with his first league goal since Boxing Day after he was promoted to the starting line-up by David Nugent’s injury in the warm-up.
Andy King settled matters in the final minute when Lukasz Fabianski fumbled Esteban Cambiasso’s free-kick as Swansea failed to collect the point needed to better their best-ever Premier League points total of 47.
Burnley’s survival hopes suffered a blow in a controversial 1-0 defeat atEverton, Roberto Martinez’s Toffees now unbeaten in five league games.
Referee Mike Jones awarded a contentious 10th-minute penalty to Everton after Aaron Lennon had appeared to be fouled outside the area by David Jones, but Tom Heaton saved Ross Barkley’s spot-kick.
Kevin Mirallas gave Everton a 29th-minute lead from James McCarthy’s cross before Burnley were reduced to 10 men on the stroke of half-time when Ashley Barnes was sent off for two bookable offences.
Burnley’s mood was not helped in the second half when Mirallas escaped a red card for his dangerous challenge on George Boyd.
Pulis left Palace on the eve of this campaign after saving the Eagles from relegation last season and he did not have to wait long for Albion to take the lead on his old stamping ground.
James Morrison nodded in Chris Brunt’s second-minute corner and Craig Gardner’s brilliant 30-yard strike after 53 minutes ensured Albion would end a run of three successive defeats with a precious victory.
Stoke beat Southampton 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium as the Potters claimed their first top-flight victory over Saints in 15 matches.
Morgan Schneiderlin put Southampton ahead from close range after 22 minutes when he profited from Jose Fonte’s flick-on.
Mame Biram Diouf equalised two minutes after the re-start when Steven Nzonzi’s deflected shot came back off the crossbar and substitute Charlie Adam lashed home the 84th-minute winner.