TEN-MAN City succumbed to a harsh 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge, as the Canaries found themselves on the wrong side of a controversial penalty decision for the third consecutive game.
The Canaries weathered some early Chelsea pressure and a brilliant sixth-minute Jose Bosingwa strike before getting into their running and creating good opportunities against Andre Villas-Boas' side.
And it looked like Paul Lambert's side would get some reward from the game which their efforts deserved when skipper Grant Holt capitalised on a defensive error and equalised on 62 minutes with a cleverly improvised strike.
But on 80 minutes referee Mike Jones pointed to the spot after Ramires was adjudged to have been brought down in full flight by John Ruddy - the City stopper given a straight red card and Frank Lampard stepped up to convert the resulting spot kick past substitute Declan Rudd.
In the closing stages of the game Chelsea new boy Juan Mata latched on to a defensive error to put the game past the Canaries.
After the match City boss Paul Lambert praised the fighting spirit and performance from his side: "I thought we were excellent, I really did. Performance-wise we were very good and the penalty's turned the game.
"We could have been up 2-1, but I can't ask for anything more from the lads. They have come here and thrived on it, which is brilliant."
The City boss confirmed he had withdrawn Zak Whitbread from the fray with a suspected pulled hamstring in the first half: "Zak has pulled his hamstring, which is why we changed it, but after we went a goal down we got into the game and I thought we were excellent."
City boss Paul Lambert rang the changes again with 10 players coming in after Tuesday night's Carling Cup defeat to MK Dons.There was also a different starting formation from that in midweek and their last Barclays Premier League enounter with Stoke - five in defence with the three centre-backs of De Laet, Barnett and Whitbread and Marc Tierney and Kyle Naughton providing both defensive and attacking wing-back options.
Leon Barnett returned to the team after serving his one-game suspension and midfielder Wes Hoolahan overcame a hamstring problem.
The first chance of the game fell to the home side and Ramires who was found by Frank Lampard on the edge of the area and his low shot was parried away by John Ruddy to concede the first corner of the game.
However, four minutes later Chelsea did take the lead from a similar position, but this time Jose Bosingwa was the player waiting and he fired a sweet shot past Ruddy.
On 17 minutes the Canaries had their best chance so far. Kyle Naughton did well to take control of the ball on the left, and then found Hoolahan who lifted the ball nicely into Chelsea's area where Holt was alone and in space, but although onside he couldn't get enough of a touch and Hilario came to claim the ball.
City were finding more of the ball, but came close to conceding another goal on 21 minutes - Fernando Torres putting a neat pass to his strike partner Drogba, but the Ivorian couldn't quite make the connection and Ruddy came out to retrieve the ball.
On 28 minutes City forced Hilario into two good saves - firstly Chris Martin made himself some room in the box and hit a low shot which the Portaguese 'keeper did well to get down to push away. However, Martin didn't give up and claimed the loose ball and worked it out again for Naughton to have a crack from outside the area forcing the Blues' stopper to push over his bar and concede a corner.
Just a moment later Hilario was called upon again this time having to claim a Grant Holt header after the City skipper met a good Naughton cross.
On the half-hour mark Paul Lambert made his first change of the game - Zak Whitbread being replaced by Anthony Pilkington and changing the formation to 4-4-2.
Five minutes before half-time Chelsea were awarded a set-piece in a good position 25 yards from goal - Andrew Crofts catching Drogba to concede the free-kick and earn a yellow card. The Chelsea striker stepped up to take the set-piece which cleared the Canary wall but just clipped the net as it whistled over the bar. Then just a moment later the Canaries had their own free-kick, this time Bradley Johnson taking control, but although on target his effort was comfortably caught by Hilario.
The first half ended as it had started with Chelsea attacking the City goal but good defensive work by De Laet and Crofts saw the Canaries go into the break just the one goal down.
Half-time: Chelsea 1, Norwich City 0
The Canaries withstood some early pressure from the hosts after the break, with Chelsea having several corners in the first 10 minutes of the half.
On 54 minutes a good free-kick from Johnson into the Chelsea penalty area was just cleared away for a corner with Holt rising to head goalwards.
City's second substitution came on the hour mark Steve Morison replacing Wes Hoolahan.
Then a defensive error at the back for Chelsea saw City claim an equaliser on 62 minutes. A great ball by Naughton from the right caused confusion between Hilario and his centre-back Branislav Ivanovic and Holt capitalised, hooking the loose ball into the empty net to send the City fans behind the goal delirious.
With the hosts looking to respond they were dealt a worrying injury to Didier Drogba - the striker colliding with John Ruddy when challenging for the ball and the Ivorian receiving lengthy treatment on the pitch before being carried off on a stretcher and being replaced by Nicolas Anelka.
On 73 minutes Steve Morison was released down the left and had space to run on to goal, but John Terry just did enough to deflect the Welsh international's shot out for a corner.
Three minutes later Blues' substitute and new signing Juan Mata placed a great cross onto the head of Torres, but the Spaniard could only find the hands of Ruddy.
The game was opening up with chances for both teams but what proved to be a pivotal decision came with 10 minutes to play - Chelsea's Ramires broke through the middle and into City's area and went down under the challenge of Ruddy. Referee Mike Jones pointed to the spot and held up a red card to the City stopper.
Striker Chris Martin was sacrificed to bring on young 'keeper Declan Rudd and his first job was to face Frank Lampard from the spot. The England midfielder stepped up and smashed his penalty home giving Rudd no chance and putting the Blues back in front.
However, City heads did not drop and Morison had a great chance to put the visitors back on terms. Another Johnson set-piece saw the striker evade offside and the home defence but he could only loop his effort wide of the goal.
With an extra man, Chelsea were finding more space and came close to extending their lead in the last minute, Ivanovic heading just wide of Rudd's right-hand post.
Having had a long stoppage due to Drogba's injury the fourth official signalled 11 additional minutes.
Chelsea's new signing Romelu Lukaku tested Rudd in the fifth minute of injury time, the England youth international managing to stretch and push the Belgian's shot wide and put then put Lampard off as he ran in to follow up, the ball going out for a goal kick.
Holt and Morison were still continuing to cause the Chelsea defence problems, but the game was wrapped up in the final minute of injury time - a mistake from Ritchie De Laet saw him pass the ball into the path of debutant Mata who slotted the ball past Rudd to make the final score 3-1. A scoreline which didn't reflect the effort the Canaries put in on the day.
Final score: Chelsea 3, Norwich City 1
CITY: Ruddy, Johnson, Whitbread (Pilkington 30), Crofts, Holt (c), Hoolahan (Morison 60), C. Martin (Rudd 81), Barnett, Tierney, De Laet, Naughton. Subs not used: R. Martin, Jackson, Fox, Bennett.
CHELSEA: Hilario, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Torres (Lukaku 82), Drogba (Anelka 71), Mikel, Malouda (Mata 67), Bosingwa, Terry (c). Subs not used: Turnbull, Ferreira, McEachran, Alex.
Referee: Mike Jones