Didier Drogba marked Chelsea's 107th birthday with his 100th Barclays Premier League goal to finally see off 10-man Stoke 1-0 in Roberto Di Matteo's first home game in charge.
Drogba, who also turns 34 on Sunday, finally made the breakthrough 22 minutes from time after Ricardo Fuller had earlier been foolishly sent off - for a horrible stamp on Branislav Ivanovic - in his first league start since New Year's Day 2011.
The win made it two in two for caretaker boss Di Matteo and lifted Chelsea back level on points with fourth-placed Arsenal ahead of the latter's game with Newcastle on Monday.
Chelsea should have been ahead inside four minutes, Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross going close to back-heading an own goal and an unmarked Ivanovic powering over Frank Lampard's corner.
Fuller, upset by a soft Ivanovic tackle, stamped on the defender's groin, earning a straight red.
Raul Meireles' cross just cleared Drogba and Ivanovic's looping header after a one-two with Lampard almost caught out Asmir Begovic. Juan Mata came on for Meireles, immediately playing a pass that saw Marc Wilson booked for bringing down Ramires.
Lampard almost danced his way through several defenders before Ivanovic wasted a glorious 40th-minute chance, smashing against the bar after Robert Huth's header had gifted him the ball.
Ivanovic failed to emerge after the break, with David Luiz coming on at right-back.John Terry drilled narrowly wide before Chelsea finally forced Begovic into a save - and a brilliant one at that - when Drogba's 66th-minute free-kick was clawed out of the top corner.
The breakthrough came when Mata's pinpoint through ball found Drogba and he rounded Begovic before scoring.
A Terry mistake seven minutes from time let in Cameron Jerome, who flashed past the post under pressure from Gary Cahill. In the final action Mata's superb 30-yard free-kick clattered the upright.