Chelsea 1-0 Bolton
Chelsea continued their Champions League charge with a crucial victory over struggling Bolton at Stamford Bridge.
Cometh the hour, cometh Carlton Cole, who scored the only goal of the game to help Chelsea close the gap on third-placed Newcastle to just one point.
However, the defeat plunged Bolton deeper into the relegation mire with Sam Allardyce's team fourth from bottom following Birmingham's win over relegated Sunderland.
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri suprisingly dropped French defender William Gallas to the bench, but rewarded youngster Cole with a place in the starting line-up after his goal against Sunderland last weekend.
And Chelsea were given a massive incentive to go for victory after Newcastle were thrashed by Manchester United earlier in the day.
However, the chance to make up ground on Sir Bobby Robson's men initially failed to rouse Chelsea in a disappointing first half.
Bolton, too, had their reasons to go for all three points as they attempt to ward off the threat of relegation.
Three consecutive wins for both sides suggested that something had to give, yet neither goalkeeper was really tested before the break.
Gianfranco Zola typically provided the few flashes of quality, while Cole kept Bolton's defence busy with some darting runs.
After the interval, Chelsea moved up a gear and found a way through Bolton's dogged defence.
Emmanuel Petit chipped an exquisite through ball to Cole, who showed good composure to round Jussi Jaaskelainen and score with a left-foot shot.
Chelsea should have extended their lead soon after when Anthony Barness inexplicably attempted a headed back-pass to Jaaskelainen with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in close proximity.
But the Dutch striker could not produce the finish to punish Barness' glaring error.
The home side continued to attack as they went in search of more goals.
However, Chelsea were unable to add to their tally.
And the excellent John Terry was forced into some last-ditch defending to protect their lead with Bolton pressing for a much-needed equaliser, which simply would not come.
Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Terry, Desailly, Le Saux, Petit,
Lampard, Zola (Gudjohnsen 86), Zenden (De Lucas 59),
Hasselbaink, Cole (Gallas 75).
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Babayaro.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Barness (Andre 72), Bergsson, Laville,
Gardner, Okocha, Campo (Nolan 86), Frandsen (Charlton 68),
Mendy, Djorkaeff, Pedersen.
Subs Not Used: Poole, Facey.
Booked: Bergsson, Laville.
Referee: G Barber (Hertfordshire).