(REUTERS) - Chelsea kept up their pursuit of the Premier League's top three clubs with a 1-0 win away to London rivals Crystal Palace on Sunday (Dec 30), thanks to a strike by N'Golo Kante early in the second half.
Chelsea had to work hard to break down Palace who had taken seven points in their previous three matches, including a shock win over champions Manchester City, but seemed content to allow their visitors most of the possession.
After a sterile first 35 minutes, Willian smacked the post with a swinging free kick and Ross Barkley hit the same upright soon afterwards with an acrobatic overhead effort.
Kante broke the deadlock in the 51st minute when his darting run into the Palace penalty area was spotted by defender David Luiz who fed the France World Cup winner to score from close range.
Palace substitute Conor Wickham spurned the hosts' best chance of the game when he toe-punted a shot over the bar in the drying minutes.
Chelsea remain in fourth place in the Premier League, one point behind Manchester City - who play later on Sunday - and two points adrift of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, but 11 behind leaders Liverpool. Crystal Palace remain in 14th spot.