Chelsea demonstrated their oh so familiar character of champions as they ran out 3-1 winners over Tottenham, despite playing an hour with 10 players.
The Blues were reduced to 10 after Ann-Katrin Berger was given her marching orders for wiping out Rachel Williams in the first half with the scores delicately poised at 1-1.
But second half goals from Sam Kerr and Jessie Fleming saw Chelsea secure a crucial three points in their bid to be crowned WSL champions for a third successive season.
It had echoes of last season’s Champions League quarter-final victory over Atletico Madrid, where Emma Hayes’ side dug in and ran out 2-0 winners despite playing nearly 80 minutes with 10 players.
“In crisis, I think my team do really well,” Hayes said at full-time after beating Spurs
“There are rarely times in the last few years where in crisis we go under. I think that was an amazing display of courage, confidence, conviction, togetherness, camaraderie, all the things you cannot understate.”
Chelsea brought on Pernille Harder and Magdalena Eriksson at half-time and switched to a back four from their initial formation. With the energy that Erin Cuthbert brings to the midfield, it was easy to forget that the Blues were playing with a one-player disadvantage.
Having been held by Spurs when it was 11 against 11, Chelsea took the lead through a Kerr header with 19 minutes remaining, before an absolute scorcher from Jessie Fleming in stoppage time put the game beyond doubt. The player deficit had seemingly inspired Chelsea to go up a gear.
“It was a game changer in terms of we went down to 10, but it was a game changer because we actually improved the minute we went to 10,” Hayes added.
“I’m going to tell you what I did say in there [at half-time]: we agreed together how we were going to deal with the second half. I think that was the game changer; what we did tactically.”
With Arsenal breathing down their necks, Chelsea could not afford to drop points if they are to be crowned champions of England for a third season on the bounce.
The Gunners will move back to within a point of the Blues should they beat Everton, leaving the WSL title race tantalisingly poised with three games remaining.
“I’m wise and old, relatively, to managing in this league. I know that at 35 minutes everyone was putting the champagne out for the team in north London. So we’ve gone from, ‘Oh my God, they’re losing’, to ‘Jesus, it’s going to go down to the wire’,” Hayes said. “You all know it was always going to the wire. That’s the case, we can’t lose a game, that’s all I know.”