NEWCASTLE : Thomas Tuchel said in the build-up to Chelsea's trip to Newcastle United that winning the Premier League title was like running a marathon but after a 3-0 win, and with their rivals dropping points, his side stole a march in the race on Saturday.
Even with a long list of players unavailable, including all their recognised forwards, Chelsea showed a clinical edge with three goals in 16 minutes after the break to ease to victory.
Chelsea were rock solid against a very limited Newcastle side and waited patiently until right back Reece James smashed home the opener in the 65th minute and doubled their lead 12 minutes later with another emphatic finish.
"He shoots like a horse," Tuchel said of James who also scored in last week's 7-0 thrashing of Norwich City.
Jorginho added a spot kick and with news of champions Manchester City losing and Liverpool drawing, Chelsea suddenly have a little daylight in the title race, although Tuchel was quick to play down the significance of Saturday's results.
"We need to keep our feet on the ground. I am happy with the team effort today, we don't celebrate other teams' results," the German told reporters. "You can lose in this league any match at any minute. So we focus on us and keep going.
"Let's see where it goes, but it's a long way. It's too early and we want to focus on ourselves because what goes around comes around."
With Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic all unavailable and Mason Mount ruled out through illness, it was a day in which Chelsea's squad depth was the key.
Callum Hudson-Odoi impressed with an assist for the first goal while Hakim Ziyech was a constant threat, having a goal ruled out and striking a deflected effort against the post.
Substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek was involved in James' second goal while Kai Havertz earned the penalty.
Chelsea enjoyed 80per cent possession and limited the hosts to only one shot on target, in the 83rd minute.
It was a depressingly familiar story for Newcastle who look in desperate need of new signings to bolster what looks like an inevitable relegation scrap.
They will not be able to flex their new financial muscle, courtesy of their new Saudi Arabian owners, until January and after failing to win any of their opening 10 league games for only the third time in the club's history they are in grave danger of becoming a super-rich second-tier club.
Stand-in manager Graeme Jones attempted to put a brave face on the performance.
"We had a little spell of momentum just before their first goal and generally I was really pleased," he said. "You have to remember that we are up against the Champions League winners and the current Premier League leaders.
"Once the first goal went in that is when the disappointment came from. The manner of the reaction. Three goals in 16 minutes was disappointing because the game was never that wide open.
"We were competitive. It was a difficult afternoon, I'm not denying that. We don't want to play that way. It is where we are at this minute in time."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)