Black Cats denied in seven-goal thriller.
Sunderland eventually succumbed to their first home defeat of the Gus Poyet era despite netting three times during a topsy-turvy clash with Chelsea.
After going ahead early on thanks to Jozy Altidore’s first league goal from the club, Sunderland came from behind to level when skipper John O’Shea netted in the 50th minute following first-half strikes from Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard.
Hazard – who produced a fine individual display – then gave Chelsea a 3-2 lead before a late Phil Bardsley own goal looked to have put Sunderland on the canvas.
However, the hosts dramatically reduced the deficit through Bardsley, who atoned for his mistake at the other end when he drove the ball home in the 86th minute to set up a tense finale.
Poyet’s Black Cats dropped just short in the end, though not through a lack of effort.
Altidore responded with a goal after just 15 minutes having been handed a start ahead of Steven Fletcher, while Jack Colback replaced Seb Larsson in midfield.
Poyet had been pleased with his side’s approach to the game at Aston Villa in their last outing and they started in a similar vein against Jose Mourinho’s high-flyers.
Emanuele Giaccherini fired wide from a Fabio Borini pass after just two minutes, while moments later Borini turned smartly to get away down the right and blasted a cross-shot past the far post.
Hazard and Lampard responded with errant efforts from distance for Chelsea, but Sunderland had made the better start and they were rewarded with a breakthrough on the quarter-hour.
Colback managed to shovel the ball into Altidore’s path after Andrea Dossena’s free kick on the edge of the box was deflected to him, and the American did the rest, turning well to beat Petr Cech with a left-footed shot.
However, the lead was wiped out two minutes later when the unmarked Lampard headed in Hazard’s cross from four yards out.
That quick-fire response was the signal for Chelsea to push on, which they duly did despite Cech being forced to push away a powerful drive from Dossena.
Fernando Torres saw a serviceable chance pass by when he volleyed over from 12 yards after Altidore half-cleared Juan Mata’s corner, but the visitors cashed in with their next opportunity as Hazard found the net eight minutes before the break.
Cutting in off the left flank, the Belgian drifted across the face of the box before dispatching a crisp effort into the far corner of the net, giving Vito Mannone no chance.
Sunderland were then grateful to O’Shea for some excellent defensive work after Torres broke through on the end of Lampard’s lofted through ball.
Meanwhile Mannone made a smart near-post save to deny Hazard as Chelsea finished the first period on the front foot.
But for all the visitors’ quality in the closing stages of the opening half, Sunderland’s efforts had ensured they were far from out of the contest - as O’Shea proved five minutes after the restart.
Giaccherini’s low corner from the right was missed by Wes Brown, but Sunderland’s captain was positioned behind him to fire powerfully home beyond a helpless Cech.
The effort flew in off the covering John Terry, although the shot would still have found the back of the net without the defender's intervention.
Mannone then produced an excellent save to deny Hazard on a breakaway just before the hour – the home crowd held their breath as the rebound fell to Torres, but the Spanish striker blazed way over the bar.
Colback – already booked for a foul and treading a thin line after pulling back Willian – was replaced by Larsson as Chelsea pushed on.
And another moment of individual quality paid off for the visitors as Hazard bagged his second goal to re-establish Chelsea’s lead on 62 minutes.
Playing a neat one-two out on the left, Hazard drove inside before twisting to fire the ball past Mannone from 16 yards.
Poyet responded by replacing Giaccherini with Adam Johnson, looking to provide a different option going forward.
Ba wasted a chance to extend Chelsea’s lead 18 minutes from time, appearing to slip at the vital moment when shooting on the edge of the box following an incisive pass from Hazard.
And a strong run from Ramires ended in a low cross-shot just wide, with Poyet opting to make his third and final change with Craig Gardner withdrawn for Fletcher.
It was a roll of the dice from Sunderland’s head coach as he looked to rescue a point, with the hosts looking to get men forward in support of their dual strikers.
Ki blasted wide after Johnson’s excellent cross was well punched out by Cech, but Sunderland were hit by a sucker punch at the other end when Bardsley slid sub Demba Ba’s pull-back into his own net.
It looked like game over with six minutes minutes to go – but Sunderland kept plugging away and Bardsley had his moment of redemption just moments later.
Larsson swung in a corner which ricocheted off John Obi Mikel and ran straight to the defender, who drilled the ball into the back of the net from close range.
The goal set up a grandstand finish – but the hosts couldn’t conjure up what would have been a sensational leveller with a Johnson drive the closest they came.
The winger then pulled the ball back for Ki on the edge of the box deep into stoppage time, but the Korean couldn’t get a touch and Chelsea breathed a sigh of relief as they sealed the points.
- Yellow Bardsley
- Yellow Dossena
- Giaccherini (Johnson)
- Gardner (Fletcher)
- Yellow Colback (Larsson)
- Yellow Altidore
- Santos do Nascimento Yellow
- Borges Da Silva (Schürrle) Yellow
- Mata (Mikel)
- Hazard Yellow
- Torres (Ba)
- De Bruyne