|Anelka is congratulated by Lampard and Kalou after his vital goal [GALLO/GETTY]
Nicolas Anelka buried a pinpoint cross from Didier Drogba to give Chelsea a 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers and move them four points clear at the top of the English Premier League.
Manchester United and Arsenal fans were praying for an unlikely upset at Stamford Bridge, and they may have got it had an under-par Chelsea not carved open the strugglers with a moment of precision.
Receiving the ball from Yuri Zhirkov, Drogba sidefooted a pinging left-foot cross straight onto the head of Anelka, who gave Jussi Jaaskelainen no chance from two yards just before half time.
Despite a flat performance on Tuesday night, Chelsea had several good opportunities with Frank Lampard hitting the post, John Terry drilling just wide and Salomon Kalou drawing a save when one-on-one.
Bolton could have salvaged a draw to help in their fight against relegation when Johan Elmander headed wide but the final whistle drew cheers from a home crowd increasingly confident of seeing their first league title since 2006.
There were two moments of controversy when Drogba handled in his own box and then Terry appeared to knock the ball back to Petr Cech with the top of his arm.
But penalty appeals were waved away.
"They weren't penalty claims, they were stonewall penalties," Bolton coach Owen Coyle told the BBC after Terry said he thought the ball had hit his shoulder.
"John Terry must have some shoulder if that's what he thinks it came off, it must stretch down to his ankle. When you come to the big clubs, you seem to get very little."
Chelsea are on 77 points with four to play, with United on 73 and Arsenal on 71 having played a game less.
Bolton stay on 32, five clear of the drop zone.