The pressure is finally released, not just in this game, but also on Frank Lampard. Mason Mount’s fine late finish at last gave Chelsea a much-needed league win, after 78 minutes of pressure at Craven Cottage, and just one victory in their previous five.
Lampard has long prized the midfielder, but this contribution was truly precious for him.
Scott Parker might say this 1-0 defeat had as much to do with the red card for Antonee Robinson just at a point of the game when Fulham were looking the better side. The manager did conspicuously remonstrate with the officials at the end. Even in defeat, the entire game displayed why everything looks so encouraging for them right now, despite that position in the table.
Even in victory, meanwhile, the entire game displayed why Lampard has been having problems as Chelsea looked anything but productive or convincing in attack. They were instead rather basic and predictable, only really winning when one of their many catapulted balls into the box eventually got sufficiently free of one of Fulham’s 10 men. Mount still finished expertly, to give his manager breathing space and maybe revitalise their season.
That is what Lampard will point to, and that is what this game was mostly about: just getting that win.
He knows there is still significant work to do, but this allows him to do it with much greater peace of mind.
It had threatened to be the same old story, after a flurry of early Chelsea chances led to little.
Fulham had actually been becoming the better team in the minutes before Robinson’s red card, and came close to what would have been one of the best goals of the season. After a flowing passing move, Kenny Tete put in a fine ball for Ivan Cavaleiro, only for the striker - who scored a much more difficult chance on Wednesday - to blaze over when left free.
The red card for a rash challenge on Cesar Azpilicueta may have been tough to argue, but Parker might well complain that it robbed Fulham of the opportunity for much more. They were again displaying that encouraging balance he has struck between sturdy backline and livewire attack.
Thereafter, what had already been a testing game for Chelsea became one of those real tests of patience. Fulham naturally amassed even more players around their box, and the challenge for Lampard and his attackers was to figure out how to find gaps through them. Except, Chelsea weren’t so much looking to slice their way through but just bludgeon their way through.
Instead of flowing moves or interchanges, there were largely speculative crosses. It often seemed Chelsea’s only real idea, which raises the recurring question of what Lampard’s idea for this team is.
There has been much focus on the number of signings they made, but whatever about the manager not knowing what his best team is, it rarely feels he knows what system he wants. In games like these, and so many of late, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of attacking structure he is fitting all these stars into.
It is anything but seamless, which is the case with Chelsea’s attacks. Despite attackers of the ingenuity of Hakim Ziyech, most of this game - and particularly that second half - was just cross after cross after cross.
One spell shortly after half-time, saw three go towards Olivier Giroud, only for the striker to fail to finish on being given an infrequent starting place. None really troubled Alphonse Areola. Giroud’s replacement Tammy Abraham asked a bit more of the goalkeeper, with a header that was actually on target, but still easy to collect.
It was all just as if Chelsea were trying to open Fulham through sheer force, and force of numbers - which was pretty much what happened as Parker’s side didn’t have enough in the box to cover that one loose ball.
A Chilwell cross - of course - was sent in, it eventually came out, and Mount was there in one of his best positions to offer the most valuable of finishes.
The fact substitute Timo Werner couldn’t finish a late chance of his own indicated some issues persist for Lampard, and a win here was never going to completely end the pressure. The manager will just implore the players to make it the start of something else.