Cesc Fabregas scored in the 88th minute to lift champions Chelsea to a wild 4-3 win over Watford on Monday night to match the Premier League record for wins in a season.
John Terry also scored in a rare start but two defensive lapses from the 22-year Chelsea man nearly allowed Watford to salvage a draw before Fabregas’ late winner.
Terry, who will leave Chelsea at the end of the season, was given his first league start since September as Antonio Conte made nine changes from the team that sealed the Premier League title on Friday.
And he scored the opening goal at Stamford Bridge in the 22nd minute following a corner as the ball fell to him to lash home in the six-yard box. It was his first league strike of the campaign, bringing his run to 17 consecutive seasons with a goal.
But Terry’s joy was short-lived, as only 40 seconds later, the 36-year-old misplayed a defensive header in his own box that allowed Etienne Capoue to draw Watford level.
However, Cesar Azpilicueta restored Chelsea’s lead following another corner by firing to the bottom area in the 36th minute.
The advantage grew shortly after half-time as Michy Batshuayi, making his first league start after scoring the goal at West Brom that sealed the title three days earlier, was in the right place to tap home Nathan Ake’s pass to make it 3-1.
Watford again responded almost immediately, Daryl Janmaat cutting into the box to reduce the deficit to one in the 51st minute.
And the visitors were level again in the 74th minute when substitute Stefano Okaka, who had just come on three minutes earlier, turned in a Tom Cleverley cross that Terry and Kurt Zouma failed to clear.
Watford even had a few opportunities to steal a first win away to Chelsea since 1986, but Willian squared a pass that Fabregas turned in with a first-time shot that took a slight deflection into the net to put the hosts ahead for good, with any hope of another Hornets comeback ended when Sebastian Prodl was sent off in stoppage time for tripping Pedro.
Chelsea matched their own record of 29 wins in a season that they previously set in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. They will have one chance to break the mark in the season finale against Sunderland next weekend.
Watford suffered a fifth straight loss as the Blues won for a 14th time in 15 home games to hit 90 points.