Diego Costa’s header three minutes before half-time was enough for Chelsea to claim their 11th straight win at the expense of Palace at Selhurst Park.
The Premier League’s top scorer pounced late on in the first half to head the Blues ahead, and it would be a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as a rock-solid backline refused to be breached.
Indeed some good saves by Wayne Hennessey would keep Alan Pardew’s side in the game, but despite Marcos Alonso bending a free-kick against the crossbar late on, the Eagles would end their final home game of 2016 with defeat.
A quiet first half saw Chelsea enjoy plenty of possession in the Eagles’ half, but unable to carve out a decent opportunity the first fell to Palace on 20 minutes. Yohan Cabaye found himself with time and space in the middle of the Chelsea half and played a good pass into the path of Martin Kelly on the right. The full-back produced a fine first-time cross into the area which picked out Jason Puncheon in the box, but he screwed the chance horribly wide.
The game continued in similar vein and on another foray forward on 38 minutes a similar move saw Kelly once again deliver a good cross into the area where James McArthur was advancing, and even though he got his head to the ball it drifted well wide of the target, and soon after Puncheon bent a free-kick over the top as the opportunities continued to fall the hosts’ way.
But just as they did on Wednesday, the Eagles conceded right before the half-time interval as the Blues showed their class to net with their first real sight of goal. Eden Hazard dribbled around in the Eagles half and sprayed a pass out to Cesar Azpilicueta on the right flank. The defender took a touch before floating a great cross into the area, and Costa managed to get away from his marker to loop a header over the stranded Hennessey and grab his 13th league goal of the season.
Resisting the temptation to change anything at the interval, Pardew stuck with his team and a minute into the second half Cabaye caught a half-volley sweetly and forced Thibault Courtois into his first save of the afternoon, and then at the other end Hennessey was forced to make his maiden stop when a blast from N’Golo Kante needed dealing with.
The beginning of the second half belonged to Antonio Conte’s side though, and on 66 minutes the two wing-backs combined as ex-Eagle Victor Moses saw a cross head backwards towards Alonso who drove a volley into the side-netting, but Palace showed they still had plenty to offer in the final third when Christian Benteke saw a shot on the turn go straight to Courtois.
However they needed Hennessey to keep them in the game when Hazard again caused problems in the box and found Moses, who teed up Kante on the edge of the area but his low shot was well kept out by the Palace custodian, and two minutes later he was at full-stretch to push a stinging drive from Alonso to safety as Chelsea searched for the goal that would kill the game off.
Only the woodwork denied them doing that with six minutes remaining when Alonso again went close when stepped up to bend a free-kick from the edge of the box off the crossbar with the rebound bundling its way back to Hennessey.
There was one final chance for the Eagles when they won a free-kick 30 yards out in injury-tie, but Andros Townsend blazed it into the Holmesdale Stand as the best defence in the division held firm once again to continue their push for the title.
Palace: Hennessey, Kelly (Fryers 84), Dann, Delaney, Ward, Puncheon (Townsend 76), Ledley, Cabaye (Campbell 79), McArthur, Zaha, C. Benteke (Batshuayi 89). Subs not used: Speroni, Husin, Mutch, Lee.
Chelsea: Courtois, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Moses (Ivanovic 79), Matic, Kante, Willian (Fabregas 64), Hazard, Costa. Subs not used: Begovic, Zouma, Chalobah, Pedro.