Chelsea's title pursuit has taken on a relentless feel, their advantage at the top now gaping at seven points from a pack increasingly, perhaps perilously, pinning their hopes on winning games in hand. Emerging from thunderous contests such as this with victories so emphatic will only fuel conviction within this team, while deflating that of the others. This ended up as a thrashing.
Tottenham's wounds were admittedly all self-inflicted here, their display disintegrating into a series of mind-boggling errors in the last half-hour as if playing down to their wretched record in these parts, but Chelsea were still eager to capitalise. Demba Ba registered his late brace almost in disbelief, the visitors gifting him each reward while the home support pinched themselves at the simplicity of it all.
"After the first, complete control," said José Mourinho. "Easy: easy to pass, easy to control, easy for our supporters to enjoy, easy for me to be calm." He continues to insist the title is Manchester City's to lose: Manuel Pellegrini's team are now nine points behind in fourth with three games in hand, but each Chelsea victory heaps pressure on the challengers. There is no leeway for City any more, with the leaders unbeaten in the league in 14 matches stretching back to early December. They prevail even when they lose players in the warm-up these days. Fernando Torres tweaked his groin and hobbled away before kick-off, though Samuel Eto'o and Ba, the men who replaced him, scored three between them.
They were grateful for Spurs' generosity on that front. A team that had been constructed to compete vigorously, with Kyles Walker and Naughton doubling up on Eden Hazard down one flank and tacklers snapping into challenges aggressively in the centre, could take heart from a scoreless first half in which Chelsea had been frustrated, even nullified, if "not scared" according to Mourinho. The tactics may have appeared random, a "lucky dip" in terms of selection according to Gary Lineker, with Walker on the wing and Aaron Lennon cast as the playmaker, but they largely worked. Yet the manner in which Spurs wilted at the first hint of a game of catch-up undermined everything that had gone on before.
The mistakes by Jan Vertonghen and Walker for the first and fourth goals in particular defied belief, Sandro's clumsiness contributing to the hosts' third, with Younès Kaboul dismissed for conceding the penalty that provided the second. The French centre-half will miss next Sunday's derby against Arsenal, and Michael Dawson also hobbled out of this defeat early. Tim Sherwood has Benfica in the Europa League before then and resorted to asking journalists in his post-match press conference where they played as he seeks to make up the numbers. Normally that might have been said in mirth, but his mood had long since darkened by then.
It was the manner of Tottenham's capitulation that disturbed. The hour mark was approaching when Vertonghen, never entirely content at left-back, ambled on to possession only to slip as André Schürrle closed him down. That was slack, but the Belgian's worst error was to hook the ball back, while grounded, towards the centre with his right foot, his attempt to retain possession transformed into a perfect through-ball for Eto'o. The striker eased his finish beyond Hugo Lloris as Dawson slid in, then celebrated by staggering towards the corner flag holding his back, bent double at his ripe old age. Whether 32 or 35, as Mourinho had pondered out loud while unknowingly being filmed by Canal Plus, the Cameroonian is still a timely finisher.
"The best way to defuse the situation is to make fun, so it was a good [celebration]," said Mourinho. It is actually the veteran's birthday on Monday and he may still be celebrating this victory then. Spurs' composure drained with the concession, the referee Michael Oliver deeming Kaboul's faint grab at Eto'o, as the striker attempted to reach Hazard's delivery, worthy of a penalty and a dismissal. The Frenchman was apoplectic, his manager dumbfounded. Hazard's finish from the spot was merely emphatic.
Sandro, exposed as a makeshift centre-half, presented a loose ball to Ba in the six-yard box for the third before the most comical of the quartet of goals arrived in the final minute. Lloris's clearance was headed back towards the goalkeeper by Walker, with Ba stealing in to collect and convert. Sherwood sank into his seat as the net bulged, his own club's thoughts of a top-four finish in tatters, with the gap at four points but City have those three matches in hand.
Spurs' former technical co-ordinator is likely to play out the rest of the campaign with Louis van Gaal's name on everybody's lips as his successor-in-waiting. For Chelsea, success of a different kind may lie ahead.