Of all the ways Chelsea have contrived to avoid victory during an awful sequence of results since the World Cup, this will have been the hardest to swallow.
At Tottenham. On enemy turf with the home crowd guffawing at their misfortune. Against a team who have spluttered this far into the season and yet purred with fluency once in front, consolidating their position in fourth on a day with two rivals distracted by a Wembley final.
For all their talent and flair, Chelsea looked soft all over. Easy to keep out. Easy to dispossess. Easy to penetrate. This must be of great concern for Graham Potter. His expensive collection of players still far from looking anything like a team.
Spurs were tougher. More grown up, more cynical. Yes, Spurs of all teams. Antonio Conte, watching from home in Turin where he is recovering from surgery to remove his gallbladder, must have bristled with pride.
Oliver Skipp scored his first Tottenham goal to fire them ahead early in the second half, and eclipsed Enzo Fernandez in the heat of midfield battle. Harry Kane added the second, from a corner, to remind the visitors what a goalscoring centre forward looks like.
Harry Kane continued his goalscoring form as Tottenham secured London derby bragging rights with a win over Chelsea
England’s captain proved a nuisance early – and looked to have found space to get a shot off before Thiago Silva denied him
Kane collided with the 38-year-old, falling on Silva’s outstretched leg and leaving the Brazilian in considerable discomfort
Chelsea languish 14 points behind them. Closer in the terms of points to the bottom three than the top four. They have won only twice in a dozen games since the restart at Christmas. They have scored only six.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his first appearance in more than month from the bench, but by then his team were two down with no hint of finding a way back into the contest and many of those in the away end were making for the exits.
It all seemed a long way from the last meeting of these London clubs in August, when Chelsea dominated at Stamford Bridge and Conte was relieved to escape with a point.
Here, Tottenham set about disrupting their visitors to good effect, niggling them from their rhythm in an ill-tempered game, one littered with players falling down, playacting and disputing decisions.
There was a penalty appeal waved away in the opening moments, when Skipp caught Raheem Sterling but no foul was given, and there was a clash between Kepa Arrizabalaga and Kane, who seemed to be annoyed the Chelsea keeper was taking so long distributing the ball.
The first half ended in chaos, with Stuart Attwell and his team officials centre stage as Hakim Ziyech saw a red card downgraded to a yellow.
The incident erupted from a tangle between Ziyech and, somewhat inevitably, Richarlison in midfield. The pair squared up and others rushed in. Emerson Royal barged Ziyech from behind and Chelsea’s Morocco international retaliated by shoving the Brazilian.
He pushed him in a shoulder and his hand flew up into a cheek and Royal spotted his opportunity, fell over and rolled around on the floor holding his face.
Once the melee subsided, Attwell consulted his on-pitch assistants and issued yellow cards to Royal and, for some reason unknown, to Kai Havertz. Then, the referee received a message from VAR Paul Tierney, called Ziyech over and showed him a red card.
There was a furious reaction from the visitors and Attwell appeared to receive more information and trotted off to check the replays his monitor. When he returned, he changed the red card to a yellow and Ziyech stayed on.
It was probably the right outcome in the end. Although brought about with an air of shambles. The officials handled it all poorly, yet with so many players from both sides hell bent on deception, what can they expect.
Chelsea flickered early on through Sterling and Joao Felix, and their plans were not helped when they lost captain Thiago Silva, who twisted a knee as he scrambled to cover as Kane wriggled through a crowd towards goal.
Wesley Fofana came on to replace Silva and made an important contribution, sliding block to deflect a low shot by Pierre Emile Hojbjerg against a post.
Tottenham broke out of defence with menace, in the first half, but this was their only real effort at goal. Soon after the break, however, they seized control with a wonderful strike by Skipp, scoring his first Premier League goal and his first for the club.
From Potter’s angle, it was a goal riddled with defensive errors leading up to a save by Kepa from Royal and afterwards.
Despite initially attempting to play on, Silva was unable to continue following the collision and was replaced by Wesley Fofana
Winger Raheem Sterling had one of Chelsea’s better chances in the first half but his strike was well saved by Fraser Forster
Chaos descended between the two sides prior to the interval, with Hakim Ziyech clashing with Spurs defender Emerson Royal (not pictured) in an off the ball incident
Referee Stuart Attwell showed the Morocco star a red card after he appeared to strike Royal in the face during the melee
But the decision would ultimately be overturned by VAR, with Ziyech instead handed a yellow card for his role in the spat
Spurs took the initiative early in the second half with Oliver Skipp launching a thunderbolt of a strike to put his side ahead
The 22-year-old’s strike marked his first goal for his boyhood club and gave Antonio Conte’s side a deserved lead
The game had to be paused twice as officials at pitchside rushed to replace Attwell’s faulty communications equipment
Kane found space at the back post after Eric Dier flicked on from a corner and struck home to double his side’s lead
The Chelsea ‘keeper failed to hold the ball but could have easily gathered at the second attempt. Instead, Fernandez moved in to tidy it up, hooking the ball away.
His clearance was poor and Skipp outmuscled Felix easily to reach it first, then smashed a fierce shot at goal. It flew at pace and swerved, although it was close to Kepa, who ought to have made a better fist of keeping it out.
Once ahead, Tottenham looked solid. They defended well, Fraser Forster kept a good goal, with one strong save at the feet of Havertz, and the second goal came from a corner soon after Son Heung-min had been sent on to replace Dejan Kulusevski. Kane applied a smart finish at the back post after the corner from Son, flicked on by Eric Dier.
That was that. A day to treasure for Spurs and assistant boss Cristian Stellini, who has a record of seven wins from seven games in Conte’s absence, three while at Inter Milan and now four here. Another day to forget for Chelsea and more misery for Potter.
TOTTENHAM VS CHELSEA MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
Tottenham (3-4-2-1): Forster 6.5, Lenglet 6.5, Dier 7, Romero 7, Davies 6.5, Hojbjerg 7, Skipp 8, Emerson 7.5, Richarlison 6.5 (Porro 89), Kulusevski 6 (Son 79), Kane 7.5
Substitutes not used: Sanchez, Perisic, Danjuma, Tanganga, Moura, Sarr, Austin
Manager: Cristian Stellini 7
Goals: Skipp 46′, Kane 82′
Booked: Emerson, Davies
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Arrizabalaga 5, Chilwell 5, Koulibaly 6, Silva 6 (Fofana 19, 6), James 6, Fernandez 6, Loftus-Cheek 5 (Mount 62, 5), Sterling 6 (Aubameyang 83), Felix 6 (Mudryk 83), Ziyech 6 (Zakaria 62, 5), Havertz 5
Substitutes not used: Badiashile, Bettinelli, Gallagher, Madueke
Manager: Graham Potter 5
Booked: Havertz, Ziyech, Mount
Referee: Stuart Attwell 5