Bethany England struck the opener after coming off the bench to help Chelsea on their way to a 2-0 victory over West Ham United at Kingsmeadow.
The Blues moved themselves up to second in the FA Women’s Super League and to within one point of leaders Arsenal, with a game still in hand, after overcoming what was a resolute Hammers defence.
Their first big chance came after 15 minutes when Pernille Harder’s header from Jonna Andersson’s cross at the back post was pushed out by West Ham keeper Anna Leat.
The Hammers quickly had an opening themselves when Claudia Walker got on the end of a through ball, but Ann-Katrin Berger rushed out of her goal to block the shot.
Harder then threatened again when she drove at the West Ham defence after dispossessing Lucy Parker, but her shot from the edge of the area was held by Leat.
Despite the hosts dominating, the first half finished goalless but the deadlock was broken six minutes after the restart, and after the introduction of England.
It came when Erin Cuthbert’s shot wasn’t held by Leat and England showed the poacher’s instinct that the hosts lacked in the first half by snapping up the rebound.
Fran Kirby then came close to adding a second for the Blues five minutes later when her shot on the turn was saved by Leat.
The match was finally settled with eight minutes left when Kirby laid the ball off for Cuthbert, and the Scot found the bottom corner with a fine strike.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said: “I felt the game needed somebody to do something that was ‘not pretty’.
“I think for us, sometimes we want to walk the ball into the net, we create numerous chances game after game and what it needed was a scrappy finish; a shot from Erin [Cuthbert] and following up from Beth [England].
“I thought her impact was good, she’s trained well the last few days and I think it’s important for Beth to build on that.
“The team needed that and, like I said, I think in the last few days, she’s been very good in training.
“This is an important time; we need Beth and we need her to step forward.
“I always think that we’re in a title race, so it’s no different. I think Man United, Man City and Arsenal are all in a title race – maybe Tottenham just in the back end of that, but I think it’s wide open.”
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