Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said his side had overcome a psychological hurdle in their pursuit of the Premier League title after they dispatched Southampton 4-2 at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues moved seven points clear at the top of the table and put the pressure back on second-place Tottenham after Diego Costa’s second-half brace topped off goals from Eden Hazard and Gary Cahill to see off Saints.
Conte said his side displayed mental steel after suffering a potentially derailing defeat to Manchester United in their previous league encounter.
“We passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat against United,” he said.
“We lost three points and then we had to prepare for a [FA Cup] semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important psychological test and our answer was very good.
“The league is totally open. But we are ready to fight until the end.”
The all-star trio that arrived from the bench to turn Saturday's semi-final in Chelsea’s favour — Costa, Hazard and Cesc Fabregas — picked up where they had left off 72 hours earlier.
After just five minutes, Fabregas’ through ball from deep was collected by Costa who held up on the byline before picking out an onrushing Hazard untracked by the five Saints defenders in the box.
The Belgian made the most of the space by stroking into the far corner to put the hosts ahead.
Southampton responded to the early blow with a period of sustained pressure which brought them justly level through Oriol Romeu after 24 minutes.
The former Chelsea man tapped home after Manolo Gabbiadini collected a corner at the back-post and smashed across goal for the midfielder to convert.
Stamford Bridge’s faithful were saved from a half-time of jitters when, moments before the break, Cahill charged onto Marcos Alonso’s looping flick across the box and powered a header into the opposite corner of Fraser Forster's goal.
Conte’s men then surged into a commanding lead seven minutes into the second-half.
Costa ended a scoring drought of seven games without a goal by latching onto the end of Fabregas’ clipped cross from the edge of the area and nodding home — his 50th Premier League goal.
Finishing instinct rediscovered, the striker put the game beyond doubt in the last minute when he burst through an array of Southampton defenders by combining with Hazard and Pedro before firing past Forster.
Ryan Bertrand, a Champions League winner with Chelsea, took some gloss of the scoreline with an injury time header for Southampton.