TWO late Chelsea goals prevented Norwich City from taking a share of the spoils at Carrow Road, with the visitors eventually winning 3-1 on Sunday afternoon.
Substitutes Eden Hazard and Willian struck within moments of each other to break Canaries' hearts with just five minutes left on the clock.
It came at the end of a second period that City dominated, and in which Anthony Pilkington had equalised Oscar's opener with a low header past Petr Cech.
Martin Olsson and Robert Snodgrass had chances to edge City in front as an exceptional home support roared the team on, but it wasn't to be as Chelsea snatched the points in clinical fashion at the end.
Chris Hughton made one change from the victory at Stoke City a week ago, with Team Captain Sebastien Bassong replacing Ryan Bennett in central defence after recovering from his hamstring injury.
Olsson made his first home league start for the Canaries, while for Chelsea, Demba Ba started up front in place of the suspended Fernando Torres, with Samuel Eto’o having to settle for a spot among the substitutes.
The early action in the last home game against Aston Villa was replicated, but it wasn’t good news for the Canaries as Jose Mourinho’s men grabbed the game’s first goal after just four minutes.
Ba brought down a long ball from Frank Lampard with ease, cut inside Michael Turner and laid the ball into the path of Oscar, who finish with the outside of his right foot was pinpoint, past Ruddy into the far corner.
then prevented Ba from doubling the visitors’ lead with a superb save down to his left after the Senegalese forward had beaten City’s offside trap on 14 minutes.
City made their first break on 22, when Snodgrass and Ricky van Wolfswinkel combined down the right to enable the Dutchman to swing in a near-post cross which Jonny Howson chased down but couldn’t quite convert.
Ruddy then had an awkward moment at the other end as he came to catch a David Luiz cross but misjudged the direction of the delivery, enabling Ba in behind. Thankfully, City’s ‘keeper was able to make amends by palming the ball behind for a corner.
City weren’t being outplayed by any means but Chelsea looked threatening whenever they entered the final third through their wealth of attacking talent, with the contentious decisions seemingly going the way of the visitors too.
The Canaries rallied with the half coming to a close, and a patient move ended in Alex Tettey striking a half volley wide of Petr Cech’s right-hand post, before Snodgrass drilled a shot over after being set up by Russell Martin.
Then seconds before the half-time whistle, Bassong leapt on a loose ball in box from Snodgrass corner, but Cech was equal to his shot.
HALF-TIME: Norwich City 0-1 Chelsea
Norwich were fortunate to keep the deficit at just one only a minute into the second half when Ramires’ cross was flicked on by Ba at the near post, but thankfully the ball drifted just wide.
Up the other end, City’s supporters were incensed when Pilkington fell in the box under the challenge of Ramires, but Neil Swarbrick waved away the protests for a spot-kick.
City’s Irish winger then dragged a shot wide as the momentum gathered for Hughton’s side once more, before hitting a free-kick well over Cech’s bar after Snodgrass had been brought down.
Carrow Road was rocking and had a further appeal for a penalty turned down when van Wolfswinkel collided with Terry, before Pilkington was involved again, having a low shot blocked superbly by Chelsea’ skipper.
Tettey then drove over from 25 yards as City continued to press forward, and they got their reward on 68 minutes.
Snodgrass played in Olsson down the left, and although the Swede’s cross initially looked too deep, van Wolfswinkel was able to head it back across goal, where Pilkington was waiting to nod the ball underneath Cech.
Gary Hooper stepped into the breach for the tireless van Wolfswinkel , and Chelsea made some changes too, with substitute Eden Hazard flashing a shot past Ruddy’s post on 79.
Olsson had chance to shoot from inside the box but miskicked at the crucial moment, and Hughton introduced Nathan Redmond to try and give City the advantage.
However, they were dealt a cruel hammer blow with five minutes left on the clock when struck twice in a minute to end hopes of a famous victory for the Canaries.
On 85, Oscar tried to play in Hazard, and even though it looked as though Alex Tettey was going to clear, he transpired to play in the Belgian and while Ruddy got a hand to his low shot, it crept over the line, with no need for the Goal Decision System with the assistant referee confirming the goal.
Another Mourinho substitute then got the all-important third for the Blues – the ball fell to Willian after three City players went for the same ball, and the flamboyant Brazilian curled into the far corner first time with his left foot.
It was devastating for Hughton and his players, who could count themselves unlucky to come away from the game with no rewards after a swashbuckling second half display.
FULL-TIME: Norwich City 1-3 ChelseaGOALS
: Norwich City: Anthony Pilkington (68) - Chelsea: Oscar (4), Eden Hazard (85), Willian (86)
: Ruddy; Martin, Turner, Bassong (c), Olsson; Tettey, Fer, Howson; Snodgrass (Redmond 81), Pilkington, van Wolfswinkel (Hooper 63). Subs not used
: Bunn (GK), Whittaker, Johnson, Elmander, R Bennett.
: Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry (c), Cole (Hazard 75); Ramires, Lampard; Schurrle, Oscar, Mata (Willian 81); Ba (Eto’o 73). Subs not used
: Schwarzer (GK), Essien, Cahill, Azpilicueta.