Chelsea missed the chance to take full advantage of slip ups from their rivals in the race for a top-four finish as they were held to a 2-2 draw by a resilient Burnley at Stamford Bridge.
The Clarets took an eighth-minute lead when Cesar Azpilicueta’s poor headed clearance was volleyed home by Jeff Hendrick from the edge of the box – but within six minutes, Chelsea were in front.
First, N’Golo Kante swept home after quick feet from Eden Hazard down the wing left Matt Lowton chasing shadows, with the France midfielder on hand to restore parity from the pull back.
Two minutes later, a probing run from Jorginho led to Gonzalo Higuain playing a smart one-two with Azpilicueta before rifling his shot beyond Tom Heaton at his near post via the underside of the crossbar.
But Chelsea fell asleep once more from a Burnley free-kick as Dwight McNeil’s deep cross for Ben Mee found its way through to Ashley Barnes via Chris Wood’s deft flick, and the forward made no mistake from close range.
It was the first time since May 2011 that Chelsea had conceded two goals from set pieces at home in the Premier League. Maurizio Sarri’s side, who moved above Arsenal into fourth with the point, threw everything at Burnley in the second period, but through superb defensive organisation, Tom Heaton was largely untroubled.
Frustration got the better of Higuain as he reacted petulantly to being replaced by Olivier Giroud in the final 20 minutes. With Manchester United facing Manchester City on Wednesday and Arsenal in action on the same night at Wolves, the Blues could slip to sixth with defeat at Old Trafford next Sunday.
An incensed Sarri was sent to the stands in stoppage time as Burnley’s time-wasting tactics helped move them onto 40 points, and virtually assured them of the top-flight status next season.
The race for the top four that no one wants to win... Antonio Rudiger, not involved in this absorbing draw through injury, came flying out from the stands after the final whistle to remonstrate aggressively with members of the opposite dug-out, but such a show of passion had come too late from anyone of a Blues persuasion.
Chelsea just couldn't find a way through a resolute Burnley backline in the second half, and tempers boiled over in stoppage time as both Pedro and Mateo Kovacic were cautioned before Sarri was sent to the stands.
Clearly, despite Chelsea retaining a good chance of making the Champions League next season via winning the Europa League alone, the home side's failure to fully capitalise on defeats for Manchester United and Arsenal on Sunday means it's more or less as you were following a weekend of action where Tottenham were the biggest winners.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ben Mee (Burnley): Mee's superb bicycle-kick clearance off his own goal-line after just five minutes laid the foundations for an outstanding display that all but assures Burnley of their Premier League status for a fourth successive season.
The 29-year-old was unfortunate for Chelsea's second as the ball deflected off him and kindly into the path of Higuain, but the Clarets centre-half shrugged off that early setback to produce a majestic second-half display as he headed countless crosses to preserve a well-earned point.
Chelsea: Kepa 6, Azpilicueta 6, Luiz 6, Christensen 6, Emerson 7, Jorginho 7, Kante 6, Loftus-Cheek 6, Hudson-Odoi 6, Hazard 7, Higuain 7.
Subs: Pedro 7, Kovacic 6, Giroud 6.
Burnley: Heaton 6, Lowton 7, Mee 8, Tarkowski 8, Taylor 7, Hendrick 7, Cork 7, Westwood 7, McNeil 6, Wood 7, Barnes 7.