Papiss Cisse does the star turn; Tottenham cruises
Chelsea's hopes of finishing in the Premier League's top four suffered a hammer blow as Newcastle United kept its own challenge for a Champions League place on course with a stunning 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Roberto di Matteo's side looked drained by its recent gruelling schedule as it delivered a flat performance that was punished by two astonishing goals from Newcastle striker Papiss Demba Cisse.
It was just Chelsea's second defeat in 17 matches under interim manager di Matteo, but it could prove so costly as the Blues now trail fourth placed Tottenham and fifth placed Newcastle by four points with only two games remaining.
Unless Tottenham and Newcastle fall apart in their final fixtures, Chelsea will need to win the Champions League final against Bayern Munich on May 19 to avoid failing to qualify for Europe's elite club competition for the first time in owner Roman Abramovich's nine-year reign.
For Newcastle, this was the perfect response to Saturday's 4-0 defeat at Wigan and its seventh win in eight matches — which keeps it level on points with Tottenham — was just reward for Cisse's superb finishing and a supremely disciplined display. It will have made uncomfortable viewing for leader Manchester City, which travels to Newcastle on Sunday in a crucial game for both clubs.
With the FA Cup final against Liverpool looming on Saturday, di Matteo made six changes to the side that thrashed QPR 6-1, with Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Juan Mata joining Didier Drogba on the bench.
Fernando Torres was one of those who kept his place and the Spaniard led Chelsea's early assault on Tim Krul's goal.
Chelsea's defenders were guilty of more slack marking as Senegal striker Cisse opened the scoring in the 19th minute.
Davide Santon was allowed to make a driving run towards the Chelsea penalty area and the defender flicked a pass to Cisse, who had enough time and space to clip the ball into the air with one touch and lash an unstoppable shot past Petr Cech with his second. It was Cisse's 13th goal in just 12 appearances for the Magpies since his January move from German club Freiburg.
Starved of service, Torres was forced to seek the ball in wider positions and he delivered one teasing cross that Florent Malouda headed just wide.
In Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa, Newcastle possessed a much more threatening forward line and Ba twice went close to doubling the visitor's lead before the break.
First he tormented Branislav Ivanovic with a surging run and fired in a low shot that Cech pushed away for a corner. And from the resulting set-piece, Ba turned quickly to whip a powerful strike against the bar with Cech beaten. Newcastle suffered a blow midway through the second half when midfielder Cheick Tiote was stretchered off after lengthy treatment following an aerial clash with John Obi Mikel.
The results: Bolton 1 (Reo-Coker 51) lost to Tottenham 4 (Modric 37, van der Vaart 60, Adebayor 62, 69); Chelsea 0 lost to Newcastle 2 (Cisse 19, 90+3).