Emile Heskey scored an injury-time equaliser as Wigan Athletic held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge Monday, giving Manchester United a huge boost in the title race. ( dpa )
Chelsea could have closed to within three points of the leaders with victory, but the gap now stands at five points with just four games of the season remaining.
United still have to travel to Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea are unbeaten in 80 league games, but the boos that rang out at the final whistle were evidence that Chelsea fans believe their title chances are gone.
Wigan, meanwhile, climb to six points above the relegation zone and, with three of their remaining four games at home, they must feel they are almost safe.
Their biggest impact last night, though, was at the top end of the table as they frustrated Avram Grant's side and then, having gone behind to Michael Essien's 55th-minute strike, battled back to equalise.
Nicolas Anelka went close with a couple of headers and Juliano Belletti had an effort cleared off the line by Josip Skoko, but that was about it for Chelsea in a first-half in which they were easily contained.
Joe Cole's arrival as a substitute for Florent Malouda at half-time, though, prompted a significant improvement, and for 20 minutes they looked in control.
Captain John Terry clattered a volley against the bar from Belletti's corner, and as the ball was returned to the middle, Chris Kirkland made a fine save to deny Salomon Kalou.
A minute later, though, the breakthrough did arrive as Joe Cole crossed, Anelka held the ball up and Essien curled a precise finish around Kirkland.
A stabbed shot from Wigan substitute Antoine Sibierski drew Petr Cech into a fine save in the dying seconds.
That looked to be it, but then Jason Koumas swept in an exquisite cross that Heskey converted for his third goal of the season.
Cech played wearing not only the head protector he has used since fracturing his skull last season, but also a chin strap to protect the 50 stitches he had in a facial wound sustained in a training-ground collision with defender Tal Ben Haim last week.
It was Chelsea's tenth 1-0 win of the season, suggesting that the pragmatic style of the Jose Mourinho has not yet gone away, despite the supposed desires of owner Roman Abramovich.
Frank Lampard, having been named in the initial squad, withdrew before the game for family reasons.