After a performance that mingled endeavour and style but yielded no points this was a kick in the teeth for Blackburn Rovers but it was Sam Allardyce's hand that was hurting. His fingers were swathed in sticking plaster and bandages and, when the Blackburn manager laughed and said he had done it punching the dressing-room wall, you wondered if he was joking.
Other managers, from Arsène Wenger to Roberto Mancini, would have shared the pain of Chelsea's snatched victory. In this X Factor world of instant judgments, any points dropped by the Premier League's big beasts are the subject of inquests but Chelsea would have been happy with the draw. They were delighted with the win.
As the clocks go back, Chelsea tend to go forward. They did not drop a point last November and, if that kind of form can be repeated, their lead will lengthen as the nights shorten. "Now, we want to beat Spartak Moscow, qualify from the Champions League group and concentrate on the league," said the goalkeeper Petr Cech. "Once we qualify, we can rotate more players and save energy for the upcoming weeks.
"The other advantage is that we play everyone around us near Christmas – the big four and those trying to get there. So this is a good time for us with no Carling Cup and no Champions League. If we go through the Christmas period ahead by the same number of points, it will be a massive boost for us.
"Last season the key thing was that we won all those games against the big four. This season will be the same. If you win, you increase the gap every time. We know that this November and the Christmas period will be tricky. We have Manchester United, we have to go to Liverpool and play Tottenham and Arsenal – everyone around us really." Liverpool, adrift on a very different ocean to Chelsea, are no longer "around" them but it remains a key fixture and Cech's manager, Carlo Ancelotti, suggested that Frank Lampard would return at Anfield for his first game since August.
It says something for Chelsea's resilience that, after discussing how he had found games at Ewood Park tough, Cech pointed out that when Benjani Mwuaruwari's header beat him it was the first time he had conceded a league goal there. "We know we will lose matches but we never feel like we are beaten. It is important that, when you don't play well, you pick up points; that's what makes the difference. When you play well, everything seems easy but not everyone can win games when they are not playing well."
Blackburn played very well but Allardyce has said that for a Premier League manager the knowledge that you are in the relegation zone stalks you every minute of every day and now that beast is on his shoulders. The men who may soon own Blackburn, Balaji and Venkatesh Rao, made their first visit to Ewood and would have been impressed with the view from the directors' box. Since the brothers made their money from poultry farming, Blackburn may have to get used to headlines featuring "fowl" and chickens either "headless" or "coming home to roost" but the investment, if and when it comes, will be welcome.
"I had a couple of minutes with them in the boardroom," said Allardyce. "John Williams [the Blackburn chairman] invited me up to say hello, and if and when the deal has been struck – and they tell me it hasn't been finalised yet – we will look to sit down and see a way forward.
" I would hope they have been impressed because, when you produce a performance like that against the best in the league, it has got to excite everybody but the disappointing thing is that we are not getting any points for it."
While Cech's focus turns to Manchester United and Arsenal, Allardyce's gaze is fixed on matches that do not have the same sense of box office as Chelsea. Wigan at home on Saturday suddenly seems like a critical fixture. "We are in a dangerous position in the league," he said. "I don't want to sound too downhearted about it but I live in reality and with a quarter of the season gone we have nine points from 10 games." It is a problem now because it creates extra pressure. The pressure to beat Wigan will be immense.
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