Football can be the cruellest of sports as Cesc Fabregas brutally showcased with a late winner to deny Watford a share of the spoils in a 4-3 defeat.

John Terry gave Chelsea the lead with 22 minutes played of a topsy-turvy clash before gifting Etienne Capoue an equaliser with an ill-advised back header.

Goals either side of half-time from Cesar Azpilicueta and Michy Batshuayi looked to have sealed the win for Chelsea before Daryl Janmaat and Stefano Okaka drew Watford level.

Chelsea would have the last word on matters though, when Fabregas came from the bench to score with two minutes to play and deny Watford the most unlikely of points.

A red card for Sebastian Prodl late on further soured proceedings, but Watford will take heart from a display which saw them end a 10 hour plus drought without an away goal and battle gamely throughout.

Both Troy Deeney and Okaka were left on the bench as Walter Mazzarri opted to play M’Baye Niang as the sole front man – a position he has previously played in for Genoa.

The decision also saw Tom Cleverly recalled in the Watford midfield, while Christian Kabasele’s injury saw Nordin Amrabat recalled from the start.

Fresh from securing the title in his first season in English football, Antonio Conte opted to shuffle his pack, making nine changes from the XI which won at West Brom, most notably with the inclusion of Terry and Batshuayi from the off.

The changes did little to disrupt the champions and, after taking to the field flanked by a guard of honour and pyrotechniques, they set about entertaining a raucous Stamford Bridge crowd.

Conte’s side were having particular joy down the right and could have gone ahead inside four minutes when Willian cruised past Jose Holebas and squared for Batshuayi.

The Belgian looked well placed to turn in from six yards but Adrian Mariappa intervened to turn the ball away, before Abdoulaye Doucoure blocked Eden Hazard’s volleyed follow up.

While the noise inside the stadium refused to die, Chelsea’s early pressure eased somewhat – even if they were controlling all aspects of the game and restricting the Hornets precious little time on the ball.

Chelsea would make their dominance pay with just over 20 minutes played as a player who has played a bigger part than most in a decade of unparalleled success at Chelsea.

Willian’s outswinging corner was met by Kurt Zouma and his header bounced off Terry and the Chelsea captain volleyed home left footed via the upright from six yards.

Terry’s joy would be short-lived and his uncharacteristic error gifted Capoue the simplest of levellers two minutes later.

After ex-Watford loanee Nathan Ake had partially cleared Janmaat’s cross, Terry sent a looping header back towards Asmir Begovic, only for Capoue to arrive and head over the Chelsea stopper to restore parity.

Watford would, however, not enjoy being level for long and were undone from a set-piece once again with 10 minutes remaining in the half.

This time Willian’s delivery from the left was cleared, but Janmaat’s header only found Azpilicueta in acres of space on the edge of the box.

Unmarked, the Spaniard had time to settle himself and drill low across goal to leave Heurelho Gomes with no chance as the ball found his bottom corner.

Chelsea started the second half in the same manner they had ended the first and they doubled their advantage just four minutes after the restart.

Almost inevitably the danger came from a corner after a clearance fell to Kenedy on the edge of the box and his deflected strike broke to Nathan Ake.

The Dutchman controlled superbly and squared for Batshuayi who had the simple task of tapping into an empty net from close range.

Most inside the ground would have expected the strike to have killed off any hope of a Watford recovery, but once again they hit back within moments of the Chelsea strike.

Their second of the evening owed much to the individual excellence of Janmaat as he picked the ball up on the left and drove into the Chelsea box.

Having jinked inside Ake, Janmaat found the bottom left corner with a placed effort to drag his side back into the game.

Despite the renewed belief Watford’s second goal gave Walter Mazzarri’s side they scarcely threatened the Chelsea goal and it was still the hosts who looked more likely.

Batshuayi – a nuisance all night with his hold up play and movement – went close to doubling his tally just after the hour, turning in the box and forcing a fine low stop from Gomes.

It would be Watford who struck next however when substitute Okaka got on the end of a cross from Tom Cleverley to fire low past Begovic.

Considering Watford’s dearth of goals on the road, to score three and come from two behind at the home of the league pace setters was no mean feat.

Chelsea are champions for many reasons and perhaps the most pertinent of those is the strength of their squad, which ultimately proved decisive.

The introduction of World Cup winners Fabregas and Pedro is no bad way to shake things up for a manager who is looking to turn a game in his side’s favour.

It would be the former who provided the sickening blow to Watford, arriving unchecked on the edge of the box to sweep home right-footed from the excellent Willian’s pass.

It was a bitter pill for Watford the swallow and their night took a turn for the worst in the dying stages when Prodl saw red for a second yellow after fouling Pedro.

Mazzarri’s side must now lift themselves for one last engagement when they take on Manchester City at vicarage Road on the final day of the season.

Chelsea: Begovic; Zouma, Terry (C), Ake, Azpilicueta, Kante, Chalobah (Fabregas 78), Kenedy (Aina 75), Willian, Batshuayi (Pedro 84), Hazard

Subs not used: Eduardo, Alonso, Cahill, Diego Costa

Watford: Gomes (C); Mariappa, Prodl, Holebas, Amrabat, Cleverley, Behrami, Doucoure, Janmaat, Capoue (Deeney 90), Niang (Okaka 72)

Subs not used: Pantilimon; Mason, Eleftheriou, Zuniga, Pereira