Frank Lampard broke Chelsea's all-time scoring record with two goals as the European champions all but secured a top-four finish in the English Premier League with a 2-1 win in an incident-packed game at Aston Villa on Saturday.
Christian Benteke put Villa in front in the first period with his 19th league goal of the season and Chelsea looked in real trouble when midfielder Ramires was sent off for a second caution just before halftime.
The Londoners looked flat and lethargic but the turning-point came in the 58th minute when Benteke was dismissed for a second booking.
Lampard equalised with a crisp left-foot shot three minutes later and the England midfielder went past Bobby Tambling's record of 202 Chelsea goals when he poked in the winner in the 88th minute.
"People have been talking about the record a lot and it's great to get it finally especially in an important game," an emotional Lampard told Sky Sports television.
"Bobby Tambling is a great man and I was pleased to level but didn't want to overcook that celebration out of respect for him."
Visiting captain John Terry was carried off on a stretcher in the 72nd minute with his left leg in a brace following a collision in Villa's penalty area.
Interim manager Rafael Benitez said Terry had twisted his ankle and the defender would need a scan to determine the full extent of the injury.
Benitez added Eden Hazard had tweaked a hamstring, raising concerns the Belgium winger could be a doubt for Wednesday's Europa League final against Benfica in Amsterdam, the 68th fixture of a gruelling campaign for the London club.
Chelsea occupy third position in the Premier League with 72 points and one game to go, five points ahead of Arsenal and six clear of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur who both have two matches left.
Benitez's team also have a superior goal difference of plus 35 compared to Arsenal's 31 and Tottenham's 18.
The top three qualify for next season's Champions League and the team in fourth goes through to the preliminary round.
Villa's defeat means they are still not certain of avoiding relegation.
Paul Lambert's team are 13th in the table on 40 points, five ahead of Wigan Athletic who are in the third and final relegation place with two matches remaining.
Villa's young side, hammered 8-0 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in December, seemed hell bent on avenging that defeat early on and it came as no surprise when Benteke ran beyond Gary Cahill before calmly beating keeper Petr Cech in the 15th minute.
Benteke celebrated by lifting his jersey to reveal a tee-shirt emblazoned with 'Petrov 19', saluting former Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov who announced his retirement during the week after being diagnosed with leukaemia last year.
Petrov, 33, whose illness is in remission and used to wear the number 19 jersey, was given a standing ovation when he and his family went on a lap of honour at the end of the game.
The day belonged to Lampard who equalised Benteke's first-half strike by burying a left-foot shot in the corner of the net after 61 minutes.
Television replays then seemed to indicate former Villa defender Cahill's eight-metre shot had gone over the line before it was hacked to safety by Ashley Westwood.
Chelsea vice-captain Lampard then headed the ball over when well placed but the 34-year-old made no mistake when he pounced to score from close range in the 88th minute.
A smiling Lampard was engulfed by his team mates at the final whistle before he climbed on the shoulders of Cech to applaud a raucous group of Chelsea supporters.
"I am so proud to have held the record for the past 45 years and I know like all records it is there to be broken," Tambling told the club's website (www.chelseafc.com).
"But to be honest if I wanted anyone to break it, it would be Frank Lampard. I have been privileged to meet him on numerous occasions and he has always been a true gent and an absolute gem to both myself and my wife Val."
Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images