Sunderland condemned Chelsea to their first home Premier League defeat under Jose Mourinho with a stunning 2-1 victory on Saturday that took Liverpool a step closer to the title.
Chelsea were bidding to take over from Liverpool at the summit, but their loss to the league’s bottom club means that Brendan Rodgers’s side can now open up a five-point lead if they win at Norwich City on Sunday.
Samuel Eto’o put Chelsea ahead after only 12 minutes, but Sunderland equalised quickly through Connor Wickham and claimed victory thanks to an 82nd-minute penalty from on-loan Liverpool striker Fabio Borini.
Having held third-placed Manchester City to a 2-2 draw in midweek, Sunderland have emerged as this season’s kingmakers, and victory at Stamford Bridge gave their chances of avoiding relegation a sizeable boost.
Gus Poyet’s side, who had previously gone nine games without a win, finished the day three points from safety and also have a game in hand to play.
Chelsea took the lead in the 12th minute, Eto’o volleying in from Willian’s left-wing corner, but it took Sunderland only six minutes to draw level.
Mark Schwarzer, deputising in goal for the unwell Petr Cech, spilled a long-range shot from Marcos Alonso and Wickham pounced to clip home the rebound.
Chelsea’s response was not slow in coming and visiting goalkeeper Vito Mannone had to produce smart saves to thwart Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic, Mohamed Salah and Willian before half-time.
Chelsea’s frustrations told when Ramires lashed out at Sebastian Larsson with his arm, catching the Sunderland midfielder in the face, but referee Mike Dean appeared not to see the incident.
The Chelsea onslaught continued in the second half, with Eto’o curling just wide and substitute Demba Ba miscuing from Willian’s cut-back, but the goal would not come and there was worse to follow.
In the 81st minute, Cesar Azpilicueta was penalised for sliding in on Jozy Altidore and Borini, a former Chelsea striker, calmly beat Schwarzer from the spot.
It may prove to be the goal that delivers the title to Anfield and Chelsea’s anger was clear, with assistant coach Rui Faria needing to be restrained as he berated Dean.