Bethany England opened the scoring after coming off the bench to help Chelsea to a 2-0 win over West Ham United at Kingsmeadow.
The Blues moved into second place in the FA Women’s Super League and less than a point behind leaders Arsenal, with one game still in play, after overcoming what was a resolute Hammers defence.
Their first big chance came after 15 minutes when Pernille Harder’s header from Jonna Andersson’s cross at the far post was cleared away by West Ham keeper Anna Leat.
The Hammers had an early opening when Claudia Walker found herself on the end of a through ball, but Ann-Katrin Berger rushed out of her goal to block the shot.
Harder then threatened again when she drove into the West Ham defense after dispossessing Lucy Parker, but her shot from the edge of the box was held back by Leat.
Despite the hosts’ dominance, the first half ended scoreless but the deadlock was broken six minutes into the restart and after England were introduced.
It came when Erin Cuthbert’s shot went unsaved by Leat and England showed the poaching instinct the hosts lacked in the first half as they grabbed the rebound.
Fran Kirby then nearly added a second for the Blues five minutes later when his shot on the corner was stopped by Leat.
The game was finally settled with eight minutes remaining when Kirby released the ball for Cuthbert, and the Scotsman found the bottom corner with a fine strike.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said: “I felt the game needed someone to do something that was ‘not pretty’.
“I think for us sometimes we want to put the ball in the net, we create a lot of chances game after game and what was needed was a scrappy finish; a shot from erin [Cuthbert] and followed by Beth [England].
“I thought her impact was good, she’s been training well over the past few days and I think it’s important for Beth to build on that.
“The team needed that and, as I said, I think the last few days they have been very good in training.
“It’s an important moment; we need Beth and we need her to come forward.
“I still think we’re in a title race, so it’s no different. I think Man United, Man City and Arsenal are all in a title race – maybe Tottenham are just at the end, but I think it’s wide open.
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