There was no way through for Chelsea as Watford halted their recent resurgence in a goalless Premier League stalemate at Vicarage Road while Everton piled more woe on Newcastle United with a 3-0 victory on Wednesday.
If Newcastle had hoped to buy their way out of trouble, they were handed a reality check at Goodison Park as a first-half goal from Aaron Lennon and two late penalties from Ross Barkley kept January’s big spenders in the relegation zone.
While Chelsea have spent much of the season dwelling just above the drop zone, their fortunes had improved since Guus Hiddink took temporary charge in December.
Watford, however, were the better side for the majority of the game, even if they had keeper Heurelho Gomes to thank as Chelsea came to life in the closing stages.
Watford’s Odion Ighalo passed up the best opening in the first half when he misjudged the flight of a cross and completely fluffed a close-range header.
Chelsea did not really get out of second gear until after the restart and only started to dominate when Eden Hazard was summoned off the bench.
Diego Costa had flashed a first-half effort wide, but probably thought he had scored when he had a late header superbly saved by Watford keeper Gomes.
It was an eighth league game without defeat for Chelsea, but last season’s champions remained in the bottom half of the table in 13th place, four points adrift of Watford in ninth.
Newcastle, who spent liberally in the recent transfer window, handed new signing Andros Townsend his debut in an effort to add attacking thrust to a side that had scored only seven goals in their previous 17 away league games.
It was Everton, however, who took the lead after 23 minutes when Lennon collected the ball on the edge of the area before turning and firing low into the net.
Newcastle could have fallen further behind as Barkley had an effort tipped on to the bar by Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot, who also pushed an effort from Tom Cleverley on to the post.
The victory was effectively confirmed when Lennon was fouled in the area and Barkley fired home the penalty two minutes from the end.
The midfielder added another spot-kick in stoppage time having been brought down by Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles, who was sent off for the offence.
Barkley is enjoying a purple patch of form and his contribution was heralded by his manager Roberto Martinez.
“Phenomenal footballer, phenomenal person,” the Spaniard told the BBC.
“He took responsibility with both penalties and showed how he is an assured, technical footballer.”
It was only a second win in 11 league matches for Everton, who moved up to 11th in the table on 32 points, while Newcastle are still two points adrift of the safety zone.
“The new signings will take time to gel,” Newcastle manager Steve McClaren said before calling on his players to react in Saturday’s home clash against West Bromwich Albion.
“Fans want to see fight and we need to show it on Saturday.”