Cardiff 1 Chelsea 2
Late goals by Cezar Azpilicueta and Ruben Loftus-Cheek saw Chelsea steal victory after an abject display.
Azpilicueta was clearly offside as he netted from close range with six minutes remaining to cancel out Victor Camarasa’s strike.
And with Cardiff still reeling from the injustice, substitute Loftus-Cheek headed in Willian’s cross as the game entered stoppage time.
Chelsea’s travelling supporters had been loudly calling for manager Maurizio Sarri to be sacked as a starting line-up without key duo Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante trailed.
But Hazard’s introduction helped inspire a remarkable and undeserved turnaround and kept alive Chelsea’s top-four hopes – and also potentially kept Sarri in a job.
The Italian left star men Hazard and Kante out following their midweek international exploits and the plan looked to have backfired after 85 minutes with his side lacking conviction and urgency.
A dull first period saw Pedro almost open the scoring with a fine left-foot strike from the edge of the box that was narrowly off target.
Cardiff’s best opportunity came moments later when the impressive Josh Murphy wriggled free on the left and bent a shot just wide of the far post.
Chelsea improved marginally in the final 10 minutes of the first period, with Willian curling an free-kick just wide and Marcos Alonso guiding a first-time shot past the post.
Camarasa’s stunning volley just after the interval looked set to earn victory, but a Hazard-inspired Chelsea somehow managed to respond thanks to Azpilicueta’s header following Alonso’s flick-on and Loftus Cheek’s classy downward header.
Subs not used: Caballero, Christensen, Kante, Hudson-Odoi.