Sam Kerr’s strike fired Chelsea two points clear of opponents Manchester United as the Blues reclaimed top spot in the Women’s Super League with a 1-0 victory at Kingsmeadow.
The Australia international collected a brilliant lofted ball from Lauren James to open the scoring in the 23rd minute in what could prove a deciding contest in the title chase.
United began the afternoon a point clear of the defending champions at the top of the WSL table, though Chelsea have a game in hand.
The result also spelled the end of a streak for the visitors, who until Sunday afternoon were the WSL’s only unbeaten side away from home.
Kerr threatened first, testing Mary Earps with a low effort that was neatly saved before she broke through the centre and was one-on-one with the United goalkeeper after a fine pass from Jessie Fleming.
Earps reacted quickly to make the second stop and it was back-and-forth for a spell, with only Hannah Blundell calling Ann-Katrin Berger into action with a speculative cross which was easily handled by the Chelsea keeper.
Kerr had James to thank for her seventh league goal of the campaign after the England attacker sent a pinpoint delivery from inside her own half, which the onrushing Australian brought down with her chest at the edge of the area.
She drove forward and let fly from six yards out, her shot pinging off the crossbar and catching the inside of the far post before going in.
Ella Toone’s attempt at a quick reply sailed across the face of goal and Alessia Russo had a sharp effort saved by Berger before action returned to United’s half.
The visitors were inches away from going two down when Fleming’s cross-shot from distance clipped the top right corner of the crossbar, seeming to catch Earps off-guard as she was forced into a quick reaction.
United were not without chances as the half wound down but Millie Turner mistimed her leap to meet a free-kick, Russo misfired, and Katie Zelem’s stoppage-time effort was well high of the woodwork.
Leah Galton overpowered an early corner to start the second half and soon the Blues were on the attack again as Kerr searched for her second with a powerful strike that bounced in front of a diving Earps before going wide of the far post.
The Blues failed to finish in a near-identical fashion following a scramble in the area. This time Fleming found James, who hoped to add to her assist and double the hosts’ advantage, instead scuffing her shot.
Turner, whose early mistake led to one of Kerr’s first chances, would not be caught out a second time as she perfectly timed a tackle to stop the striker’s threatening run in front of the United goal.
Marc Skinner’s side tried to get back in it, but Berger was well-poised to collect Zelem’s free-kick, and were saved from falling further behind when Melanie Leupolz fizzed an effort over.
United threatened, but by then Chelsea were in shut-down mode, where they resolutely remained until the final whistle.