Guus Hiddink collected the first win of his second spell in charge of Chelsea as the reigning Premier League champions displayed some of their old prowess in a 3-0 triumph at Crystal Palace.
Unbeaten in four matches since Jose Mourinho’s departure last month, Chelsea are now six points clear of the relegation zone after Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa got the goals in a dominant London derby victory.
Responding impressively to the early loss of Eden Hazard through injury, Costa laid on Oscar for a 29th-minute opener.
Willian has arguably been the lone shining light of Chelsea’s dismal campaign to date and he offered another scintillating display of his quality by thumping in his eighth of the campaign in all competitions from long range with an hour played.
Costa then got in on the act on his return from suspension, while Palace clearly lacked their usual verve as influential midfielder Yohan Cabaye served a ban of his own.
Alan Pardew’s men remain seventh in the table – eight points better off than Chelsea – having lost for the first time since November.
Lee Chung-yong made his first Premier League start of the season in Cabaye’s absence, the South Korea international joined in Alan Pardew’s XI by recalled duo Damien Delaney and Fraizer Campbell.
Cesc Fabregas and Costa, recently pinned as the villains of Mourinho’s demise in some quarters, returned for Chelsea.
Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, making his 200th appearance for the club, sent an early drive narrowly wide as the hosts settled quickly amid driving rain at Selhurst Park.
There was an early blow for Hiddink’s men as Hazard’s injury problems resurfaced – the Belgium playmaker hobbling out of the action after 16 minutes having appeared to hurt his groin taking a shot.
Hazard’s replacement Pedro had an attempt blocked by sliding Palace defenders as he sought to make an instant impact.
Campbell was unable to convert Jason Puncheon’s dangerous 27th-minute cross and it was a miss Palace were left to regret two minutes later.
A sprawling Delaney was unable to cut out Fabregas’ throughball and Costa squared unselfishly to Oscar for a simple finish.
Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey stood firm to prevent Cesar Azpilicueta from causing further damage before the break after Fabregas picked out the full-back with a raking pass.
Following an uneventful start to the second half, Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma should have done better when he planted a back-post header from Willian’s free-kick over.
Palace were struggling for fluency, but Campbell played Zaha through in the 59th minute and the striker’s frustration was clear when his team-mate shot tamely at Thibaut Courtois instead of opting for a return pass.
Again, the hosts rued their wastefulness as Willian spectacularly extended Chelsea’s lead.
Collecting a loose ball following sharp interplay between Fabregas and Oscar, the Brazilian advanced before unleashing an unstoppable right-footed strike into the top corner.
Willian turned provider midway through the half, but Hennessey will not reflect kindly on the moment when he pushed the winger’s low cross into Costa’s path for a far-post finish.
A dispirited Palace could offer no response having endured a ruthless Chelsea scarcely seen this season.
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