Wolverhampton 0-2 Chelsea
Didier Drogba scored both goals to earn Chelsea a 2-0 win over
Wolves at Molineux and a four-point lead at the top of the Premier
Drogba ensured the Blues took advantage of United's 3-1 lunchtime reversal against Everton at Goodison Park with a goal in each half.
It took his tally for the campaign to 25 in all competitions and earned Carlo Ancelotti's side only their second away win in their last seven league games.
Chelsea barely moved out of second gear for long periods ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Inter Milan.
But the quality finishing of Drogba was the difference between the sides and means the Blues are now favourites to take the Premier League crown with only 11 games remaining.
Petr Cech was the busier of the two keepers and made two crucial saves early in the second half when Chelsea held only a single-goal advantage.
But Wolves' problem all season has been failure to take their chances, as demonstrated by their meagre goal tally of 21 - although Kevin Doyle again impressed as a lone striker.
Chelsea were quickly in the ascendancy and the first half-chance fell to Michael Ballack.
Yury Zhirkov sent over a threatening cross from the left flank and Ballack got up well in the danger area but directed his header wide.
Doyle produced the first save of the game out of Cech after 15 minutes.
The Republic of Ireland international made space for himself after a diagonal run and Cech had to go down to his right to save his 20-yard drive.
Doyle then flicked the ball into the path of the overlapping Kevin Foley but his shot from a narrow angle flew into the side netting.
Doyle was causing problems for Chelsea and he was alert to a quick throw from Foley and forced Cech to parry his shot around the post.
Ballack was only just too high with a rasping volley after a corner from Florent Malouda was only half-cleared.
Jones, who had scored the winner against Tottenham ten days ago, curled a free-kick just wide as Wolves started to grow in confidence.
But five minutes before the interval, Chelsea took the lead through Drogba.
Zhirkov played a one-two with Ballack before squaring a low ball across the six-yard box and Drogba had the easiest of tap-ins.
Cech produced a superb reflex save to protect Chelsea's lead after 55 minutes.
Adlene Guedioura timed his run perfectly to connect with a far-post cross from Jarvis but his fierce volley was somehow kept out by the Chelsea keeper.
Ancelotti made his first change a minute later with Zhirkov replaced by Jeffrey Bruma.
The home side tried to get a foothold in the game and Cech produced another splendid stop to deny Foley an equaliser.
Terry miskicked when attempting to clear and Foley found himself with only Cech to beat but he managed to block his fierce shot.
Ballack became the first player to be yellow-carded for dissent as the Blues looked rattled.
But then Drogba doubled Chelsea's lead in the 67th minute as Wolves were caught napping by a long clearance from Cech.
Drogba was the first to react and took the ball away from Christophe Berra before clipping the ball wide of Marcus Hahnemann.
McCarthy made a triple substitution with Jarvis, Foley and Jones making way for Geoffrey Mujangi Bia, Greg Halford and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
Doyle was only just off target for Wolves with a shot on the turn after some typical aggression.
But it needed a good tackle from Ronald Zubar to deny Anelka a third goal as he bore down on the Wolves goal.
Terry cleared the ball off the line in a late Wolves rally after Cech had failed to gather a long throw from Halford.