Performances as authoritative as this insist there is life in the old guard yet. Chelsea have thrust their way back into the Premier League's top three, eclipsing Fulham at a canter with players whose days at the club appear to be numbered thriving in the familiarity of a derby. Those crammed into the Putney End will have found reassurance in the sight of Frank Lampard and, in particular, John Terry excelling. This was a throwback, a saunter to enjoy on the banks of the Thames.
Both the veterans had sat out Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, a watershed given the significance of that occasion and the reality they have been permanent fixtures on the bigger stages when fit. The sheer weight of games has forced each into Rafael Benítez's policy of rotation though Lampard, his contract drifting to its conclusion, and Terry have started to feel more second-string than first-choice.
The 60th game of Chelsea's season offered a reminder of their qualities. When the team sought strength they rallied, albeit against opponents too wasteful to inflict their own wounds. A first away win in the league since mid-January was timely given the fixture clutter.
Lampard oozed calm authority on his 600th appearance for the club, even if he still seeks the two goals to equal Bobby Tambling's club record of 202. It was Terry who registered twice here, a header in either half puncturing Fulham's resistance, the captain ending the contest bare-chested and celebrating in front of the away support. "I'm really pleased with his performance, but the most important thing is always the team," said Benítez. "They all know that. The players have to be ready to perform and on their toes every game." With Gary Cahill close to a return from a knee injury, Terry's alternate selections may well be prolonged but, regardless, he can make his mark on the run-in.
Benítez had required his captain's strong-arm presence here. The reality is Chelsea had needed a spark to ignite what had initially been another understandably leggy display. Fulham had created the early opportunities, Dimitar Berbatov orchestrating their play, with the visitors limited to flurries of possession before David Luiz tired of all the pretty approach-play. He collected the ball some 30 yards out and with Bryan Ruiz too half-hearted in his attempt to close him down, lashed a shot which caught the wind gusting around the arena and careered beyond Mark Schwarzer into the top corner.
It was a staggering goal to pep the visitors' resolve. Half-time was close when Lampard belted a free-kick from distance and tapped into the same flight path, the ball swerving in mid-air and thudding into Schwarzer's chest before dribbling behind. Fulham never recovered their composure from the resultant corner, Juan Mata eventually floating a deep cross to the far post where Terry leapt unchallengedbetween Sascha Riether and Philippe Senderos to power a header into the net.
That lead was never likely to be properly challenged thereafter, Chelsea's composure established. For all Fulham's huff and puff, there was little surprise when the revitalised Fernando Torres flicked on a corner and Terry, from virtually on the goal-line, nodded in a second 19 minutes from time.
Fulham stewed in their frustration. They are not used to yielding to their local rivals so readily in this arena, with this a first defeat in four years, though the exasperation was born more of an inability to take their own chances. Martin Jol's side had forged the clearer opportunities when the game was goalless only to be blunted by profligacy.
The tone had been set in the opening attack Riether – a player Jol hopes to secure on a long-term basis from Cologne in the summer after an excellent season on loan – crossing beyond David Luiz only for Ruiz, alone in front of goal, to poke an awkward volley over the bar. Giorgos Karagounis and Berbatov also went close, the visitors rattled to the extent that Branislav Ivanovic lunged two-footed at Mladen Petric near the corner flag and was fortunate to escape only with a caution.
It took an excellent save from Petr Cech to deny Urby Emanuelson's skimmed attempt, the shot flicking off Lampard before it was touched round a post, though their toils were rather summed up by Mladen Petric contriving to deflect Senderos's goal-bound header over the bar from under the woodwork. "The linesman would have flagged him offside if he'd turned it in, so the real frustration was playing so well for the first half-hour but then failing to close David Luiz down," said Jol. "We had a good go at them, but never capitalised."
Chelsea did not make the same mistake, their ruthlessness hoisting them above Arsenal and back into third. Benítez returns to Anfield on Sunday; he will go back to Merseyside buoyed by a resounding success.