Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd
Chelsea's championship challenge gathered ominous momentum as they went top of the Premiership by beating Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Frank Lampard's first-half penalty settled a hard-fought encounter that confirmed the title credentials of Claudio Ranieri's expensively-assembled squad.
Sir Alex Ferguson's champions failed to pose a serious threat until the closing stages as a vibrant Chelsea created the majority of the chances.
Chelsea moved top as they took advantage of Arsenal's failure to beat Fulham at Highbury - and this was a win that will provide a massive injection of confidence as the title race hots up.
Ranieri delivered a surprise selection when Geremi was preferred to in-form Damien Duff - as United restored Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy to their starting line-up.
Stamford Bridge was in carnival mood before kick-off when England's World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward made an appearance.
And United were the first to show, with Carlo Cudicini was forced to palm away Diego Forlan's close range effort in the fourth minute.
Chelsea's goalkeeper was then played into trouble by William Gallas' careless backpass and had to clear in hurried fashion.
But Chelsea eventually settled to their task and went ahead in the 27th minute from the penalty spot when Joe Cole tumbled under challenge from Roy Keane.
Keane fouls Cole in the area
Keane and his United team-mates debated the decision with referee Alan Wiley, but the official was correct and Lampard completed the job by sending Tim Howard the wrong way from the spot.
And Chelsea almost doubled their advantage three minutes later when Mario Melchiot's close range effort was scrambled to safety by Howard.
Cole was guilty of another bad miss when he fired over from 10 yards, before Lampard almost strengthened Chelsea's domination three minutes before the interval as he shot narrowly wide.
The second half started in bizarre fashion, with Chelsea going into action with only 10 men as Geremi arrived belatedly after changing his boots.
Chelsea introduced Duff for Cole after 57 minutes and he was immediately in the heart of the action as he forced Howard into a diving save.
And when Gronkjaer replaced Hernan Crespo on the hour, he almost set up a chance for Adrian Mutu.
Lampard was outstanding, and it took another alert stop from Howard to stop him grabbing his second.
Although United were lifeless in attack, the predatory Van Nistelrooy almost equalised after 73 minutes, but saw his shot on the turn deflected wide.
It sparked the first serious spell of sustained United pressure as Chelsea's defence was suddenly pushed back.
Substitute Ronaldo was in lively mood and he shot inches wide from 25 yards with nine minutes left.
And United keeper Howard had to be outstanding again to deny Geremi as Chelsea wrapped up a crucial victory.
Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Terry, Gallas, Bridge, Geremi,
Cole (Duff 58), Lampard, Makelele, Crespo (Gronkjaer 61),
Mutu (Hasselbaink 79).
Subs not used: Desailly, Ambrosio.
Booked: Cole, Melchiot, Lampard, Mutu.
Man Utd: Howard, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Fortune (Ronaldo 72), O'Shea, Silvestre, Giggs, Keane, Phil Neville (Kleberson 77), Forlan, Van Nistelrooy.
Subs not used: Butt, Bellion, Carroll.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).