Eidur Downs City (Sky Sports)
Manchester City 0 Chelsea 1
Manchester City missed a string of chances and were made to pay a heavy price as Eidur Gudjohnsen netted with Chelsea's only opening of the second half as the London outfit somehow pinched all the points.
Robbie Fowler, on more than one occasion, Richard Dunne, Jon Macken, Sylvain Distin and Antoine Sibierski all went agonisingly close against a Chelsea side seemingly lacking in attacking conviction.
However, with their only clear opening of the second half, Gudjohnsen showed his opponents exactly how to finish when clipping a shot past David James having been set free by Wayne Bridge.
The result is particularly harsh on City, but their failure to find the target could come back and haunt them no matter how well they play.
City dominated the opening salvos, with Chelsea looking a shadow of the side that secured victory over Stuttgart in midweek.
Shaun Wright-Phillips caused untold problems for Wayne Bridge down the flank and he almost created an opening for Macken with a typically forceful run. Macken received a cross with his back to goal but he showed no mean skill to audaciously flick the ball through his legs but saw the effort drift just wide.
Michael Tarnat was denied a shooting opportunity by some alert defending from Glen Johnson, while Fowler lost his footing when looking dangerous, as City continued to probe.
However, as the half wore on, Chelsea steadily found their feet and Lampard in particular was a real threat.
England number one James was fortunate to see a sliced clearance hit Lampard and bounce back into his arms.
James, who is only predictable by his unpredictability, then produced a couple of fantastic saves to deny Lampard and Crespo.
The keeper was at his most acrobatic to thwart Lampard and then a combination of his palms and the post kept out a Crespo header.
City should have opened the scoring seconds after the restart when Wright-Phillips played in Fowler, but the striker showed a rare lack of composure as he scuffed his effort wide.
Fowler had two more chances in quick succession but he failed to hit the target on either occasion.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with Antoine Sibierski lashing a long-rage effort just wide of goal, while Dunne headed over minutes later.
Set-pieces were causing a problem for Chelsea and only a fantastic save from Carlo Cudicini denied Distin an opener after he had towered above his marker at the far post.
Daniel van Buyten headed wide, Fowler saw a shot blocked by John Terry, and the home side were made to pay when Gudjohnsen netted with eight minutes left on the clock.
Chelsea are unlikely to mount a late title charge judged on this form, but the resolution showed by his glittering array of stars will have pleased coach Claudio Ranieri.
James, Distin, Dunne, Van Buyten, McManaman, Reyna, Sibierski,
Tarnat, Fowler, Macken (Sinclair 72), Wright-Phillips
Subs Not Used Arason, Jihai, Barton, Bosvelt
Cudicini, Bridge, Gallas,
Johnson, Terry, Cole (Makelele 45), Geremi (Huth 71), Lampard, Parker, Crespo,
Hasselbaink (Gudjohnsen 65)
Subs Not Used Sullivan, Duff