A wonder strike from Scott Parker was not enough to prevent West Ham United from slipping to defeat at the hands of new Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea.
The Hammers midfielder capped a dogged display at Stamford Bridge with a stunning volleyed goal on the half-hour but it was a rare high point.
Parker's goal cancelled out Alex's 16th-minute header but Chelsea restored their advantage in the second half when Didier Drogba scored two close-range goals either side of a Florent Malouda strike.
Gianfranco Zola had made four changes to his lineup with Mido spearheading a 4-5-1 formation in place of the rested Carlton Cole. A top-flight debut came at left-back for Fabio Daprela, in for the injured Julien Faubert, with Jonathan Spector reverting to right-back. Ilan got a start out wide in place of Alessandro Diamanti.
Chelsea began in imperious fashion with Malouda a threat down the left-wing and Danny Gabbidon, the fourth new face from last week, required to pull off several last-ditch blocks. Drogba offered much with his movement but still Robert Green had not been truly tested when Ilan was presented with a golden chance on 13 minutes.
The Brazilian forward was teed up by Mido's pull-back after a lofted pass by Radoslav Kovac had initially played Jonathan Spector in behind the Chelsea defence. When the ball fell to Ilan it seemed a certain goal, only for his shot to clear the bar and sail harmlessly into the crowd.
It was to prove a costly miss three minutes later when, after Spector had conceded possession, Chelsea capitalised on a corner to open the scoring. The ball worked its way out to Malouda and his inch-perfect centre allowed Alex to nod in unmarked.
Drogba had a free-kick chance eight minutes later but sent it high and wide and the Ivory Coast forward pushed another opportunity wide soon afterwards. At that point there was no sign of the brilliance to come from Parker. As the half-hour approached, he let fly with a stunning 30-yard strike from Kieron Dyer's throw-in that gave debutant goalkeeper Ross Turnbull no chance.
Chelsea were stunned by that, but Frank Lampard nearly found an immediate response after combining with Michael Ballack before letting fly with a shot that Green had to tip around the post. Parker was firing on all cylinders though and, in the next attack, produced a superb tackle on Lampard that summed up the Hammers' first-half resistance.
It was a physical but not dirty contest, although Mido was to go in the referee's notebook five minutes after half-time for a crunching challenge. Daprela was to do well on 54 minutes with a last-ditch clearance to deny the on-rushing Ballack meeting a left-wing cross.
Chelsea were pushing and two minutes later John Terry surged 60 yards before laying the ball off for Drogba. He quickly turned it out to Malouda and moved into a central position to head in the return cross and restore the home side's advantage.
Only a magnificent save from Green stopped Terry making the game safe soon after the restart. Both managers then made a flurry of changes with Joe Cole on for Chelsea and Carlton Cole and Junior Stanislas arriving for Mido and Dyer.
The substitutions did little to alter the status quo and the points were lost on 77 minutes when Malouda was able to spiral through the defence and slot the ball into the corner beyond Green's despairing dive. Diamanti arrived for Ilan in the closing stages but Chelsea could have had a fourth when Lampard flicked against the post.
It duly came as the 90-minute mark arrived, Drogba lashing in his second to cap a miserable afternoon. The Hammers face an equally tough test next Saturday away to Arsenal before a potentially decisive home double-header against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City sees out the month.