They just needed to get to half-time, regroup at the break, remain in the game before loosening the top button in the second half, but that went out the window when Willian scored from the spot after 42 minutes. Thereafter, it was damage limitation and the primary concern was to keep the right side of Bournemouth and Aston Villa on goal difference and not go into Tuesday's game on the back of a hiding.
They dug in, funnelled back and seemed determined to avoid conceding three goals or more for the eighth time in nine matches here. They had to be at their most resolute to do so as there was a point, during ten minutes at the start of the second half, when the Hornets only spent eight per cent of the match in the Chelsea third of the field and only had seven touches in the opposition box after 65 minutes. The fact it took 73 minutes for the visitors to muster their first shot on target, from substitute Adam Masina, spoke of how difficult it was against a very slick Chelsea side.
With his side at full stretch and with Tuesday very much in mind, Pearson smartly rang the changes, bringing on Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Masina and, latter on, Roberto Pereyra. The changes helped inject some energy and shift the momentum. In fairly quick succession, Masina had a couple of cracks at goal and Welbeck, who looked lively, almost steered one in the far corner only for Kepa Arrizabalaga to pull off a strong save with his left hand for the second time in as many seasons in this fixture.