By Clare Lovell
(Reuters) -Chelsea's Kai Havertz struck twice to sink relegation candidates Fulham 2-0 in a lively southwest London derby on Saturday as they tightened their grip on fourth place in the Premier League.
Fulham, third from bottom and nine points from the safety zone, started brightly, but their hopes were snuffed out by their neighbours' quality.
Fulham earned two corners before Chelsea's Brazilian defender Thiago Silva hoofed a long ball into their territory in the 10th minute.
Mason Mount plucked it out of the air with superb control before pushing it into Havertz's path and the German rounded former Chelsea defender Ola Aina to stroke it home.
Havertz doubled his tally in the 49th minute, after a slick move with Timo Werner who picked out his compatriot with a pinpoint final pass.
The result put Chelsea on 61 points from 34 games, six ahead of fifth-placed West Ham who play on Monday.
"I think it was very important. We have to come in the top four of the Premier League, that is our goal for the season and this win today is crucial for us. Then, on Wednesday we have another important game so we're happy with the win," Havertz said.
Chelsea return to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid with the score at 1-1 after the first leg last Tuesday.
Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel said: "We showed the pride we are capable of - to do it in between two big games.
"I'm beyond happy that we did it. There was no lack of concentration. We had some trouble which everyone against this Fulham side has but there was no lack of concentration and that was key."
Fulham were desperately in need of points after Brighton and Hove Albion’s win over Leeds had dropped deeper into the relegation zone, pushed hard from the start with a high press.
"The last few weeks or last few games made me feel we lacked something but today I didn't feel that," Fulham coach Scott Parker said. "I felt we put a stamp on it and we were brave."
He added: "Four wins. It can be done. We have to win four games."
Ademola Lookman and Antonee Robinson both looked dangerous as Chelsea were forced to soak up pressure at the start.
Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal was called into action in the fifth minute, tipping a bullet shot from Robinson over the bar.
In the 23rd he saved a powerful shot from the ever-busy Lookman, pushing the low ball to safety, a busy presence in the Chelsea half.
At the opposite end, Alphonse Areola made a fine save from Hakim Ziyech and minutes later he denied Werner who ran in and shot from the left.
But Chelsea’s second goal was a cruel blow and crushed Fulham’s spirit.
Chelsea’s well organised defence, marshalled by captain-for-the-day Thiago, was purring by the end of the game and it was their 11th clean sheet in the 15 Premier League games since Tuchel took charge.
(Reporting by Clare Lovell, editing by Pritha Sarkar)