Chelsea ended their wait for a first home Premier League win under Guus Hiddink with a 5-1 demolition of struggling Newcastle on Saturday.
Hiddink’s side had drawn all four of their league fixtures at Stamford Bridge since the Dutchman replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho as interim manager in December.
But Diego Costa opened the floodgates with an early goal before Pedro’s double and further strikes from Willian and Bertrand Traore sealed Chelsea’s biggest league win of a traumatic campaign.
The only complication was Blues captain John Terry going off injured after 37 minutes, having been involved in an early collision with Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Terry could now be a doubt for Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 first leg tie against Paris Saint Germain.
This was otherwise the perfect preparation for that crucial trip to Paris as Chelsea put in a brilliant attacking display — with Pedro particularly impressive — although it was hard to know how much of that was down to Newcastle’s awful defending.
Steve McClaren’s side look in real danger of relegation after dropping back into the bottom three below Norwich on goal difference.
The game was ended as a contest almost as soon as it began, with Chelsea scoring after five minutes thanks to hapless Newcastle defending.
Willian turned Cheick Tiote near the centre circle, and proceeded to stride through the opposition half with yards of space around him.
He played a ball in for Spain striker Costa, who turned the ball past Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot with a neat finish for his eighth goal in 11 games.
Newcastle, by contrast, look as bad as they did at the start of the season.
Their display just got worse, as they then contrived to give Pedro the chance to demonstrate his lethal finishing.
– Precise –
From Newcastle’s own corner, the ball was booted up to Steven Taylor on the halfway line.
He attempted a pass across the field, only to play it straight into the path of Pedro, who had sprinted from his own box.
Offered a clear run on goal, the Spanish winger opted to wrong-foot Elliot with a finish from distance, hitting a precise low shot into the corner.
Newcastle’s defence was all over the place and, on 17 minutes, they allowed Chelsea to make it 3-0.
Costa returned the favour for Willian, playing a nice pass across goal for the Brazilian to easily finish.
Terry never recovered from his collision with Mitrovic and had to go off after 37 minutes for Baba Rahman, walking straight down the tunnel to spark fears about his prospect of facing PSG.
By that point, the entire game was just about keeping the team ticking over for the European tie and Chelsea kept the scoreline ticking over too.
Newcastle did enjoy a spell of attacking play at the start of the second half, but that only meant they also left more space in behind for the home side to exploit.
Cesc Fabregas was given the freedom of the midfield on 59 minutes, just as Willian had been for the opening goal, and that allowed him to precisely pick out and execute an arching pass for Pedro.
The winger took it down, swiftly worked his way into the box and rolled the ball past Elliot to make it four.
Chelsea were putting in a near-perfect attacking performance that reached a pleasing crescendo when youth graduate Traore came off the bench to score his first goal for the club.
A fine move saw Cesar Azpilicueta play a low ball across the box and the Burkina Faso international was there to slide home his first Premier League goal.
That didn’t quite conclude the scoring as Newcastle winger Andros Townsend netted with a fine strike from 20 yard in the last minute.