For 87 minutes, Arsenal fans had been hoping that leaders Chelsea would drop two valuable points at Crystal Palace, a result that could have reopened the title race. But an 88th-minute winner from former Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas helped Chelsea restore their seven-point lead at the top of the table.
Once again Jose Mourinho’s side found a way to win, without playing well. Fabregas’s shot was their first shot on target. They say that picking up points is a sign of a good team, but Mourinho will have to be concerned with how his side has limped over the finish line. Yes they will win the title, but the great football we saw in the first half of the season has disappeared as fatigue and a lack of form has seemed to hit the champions-elect at the wrong time of the season.
At the other end of the season, QPR fans will take heart of how well their side played, but at the end of the day the points went to Chelsea and Rangers remain in 18th place, two points from safety.
Chelsea dominated the opening quarter of an hour but a swirling wind and bobbly pitch meant the visitors struggled for fluency with only Willian going close in the eighth minute with a cross that struck the post.
Rangers were disciplined in their pressing, forcing their opponents into a number of sloppy touches and misplaced passes but neither side were able to create anything close to a clear-cut chance during a drab first period.
The home support were temporarily cheered when John Terry was thrown to the ground in a scuffle with Charlie Austin and in the 44th minute, the Rangers striker had the game’s first shot on target, his long-range effort drawing a comfortable save from Thibaut Courtois.
Austin’s battle with Terry resumed shortly after the interval when the Chelsea captain felt Austin left his foot in longer than necessary on Courtois after the Blues keeper had collected a shot from Clint Hill.
Rangers enjoyed a strong spell midway through the second period and should have opened the scoring when Phillips, turning Nemanja Matic in the box, engineered a clear sight at goal but Courtois was again on hand to palm away the finish.
There was a hint of panic in the Chelsea defence as QPR piled forward late on and when Courtois fumbled Austin’s shot in the 82nd minute, it looked like it might fall to a Rangers shirt but the Blues stopper gathered just in the nick of time.
The hosts looked the more likely to snatch victory in the latter stages but when the winner came it went to Chelsea, as Eden Hazard exchanged passes with Oscar on the left before laying on Fabregas to slide past Rob Green and into the net.
Rangers pushed forward in search of an equaliser in stoppage time but it was the away fans who were left singing at the end as the Blues’ march towards the title continued.