Thomas Tuchel saluted Edouard Mendy as the Chelsea goalkeeper’s superb display sealed a hard-fought 1-0 win at Brentford on Saturday.
Tuchel’s side had been knocked out of pole position by Liverpool’s 5-0 rout of Watford a few hours earlier.
But Chelsea had the perfect response with a gritty victory in their first league meeting with their west London neighbours for 74 years.
Ben Chilwell’s fiercely-struck goal in first half stoppage-time was enough to give Chelsea their sixth win in eight league games.
But Chelsea had to rely on a series of fine saves from Mendy in the closing stages before they could move one point clear of second placed Liverpool.
“They trouble you with long throws and set pieces. They created big chances and Mendy was the key to the clean sheet,” Tuchel said.
At the start of a five-game run of winnable league fixtures, Tuchel had warned his players not to expect an easy ride from Brentford and the Chelsea boss was proved right.
“We were very strong for 70 minutes and very lucky for 20 minutes, to sum it up,” Tuchel said.
“We escaped with the three points thanks to Edouard. It was like a cup game at the end; they took risks and the atmosphere gave them a lot of courage.
“It is better to be there at the top but there are way too many teams who are close.”