Blues boss Jose Mourinho rang the changes for the London derby and his side went ahead after 15 minutes, as Fernando Torres followed up to score a rebound from close range.
Palace responded strongly and equalised through Marouane Chamakh, but were level for just six minutes as Ramires smashed in a strike that proved to be the difference between the sides at opposite ends of the table.
Here, Sports Mole dissects a display which may well leave more questions and answers for Mourinho and Chelsea supporters.
On target 7
On target 5
Was the result fair?
Chelsea were worthy winners but only on the strength of a strong first-half display that saw them dominate possession and territory. Palace battled bravely and forced a nervy finish, leaving Blues fans moaning loudly in the closing stages thanks to poor passing and a lack of urgency for long spells.
Sloppy passing was a persistent theme but Chelsea still showed brief flashes of quality in the final third, with Eden Hazard and Willian in particular linking up promisingly on more than one occasion. Defensive lapses in concentration continue to blight the Blues through, with Chamakh able to catch John Terry by surprise for his goal out of almost nowhere.
Manager Tony Pulis can take plenty of positives from a display full of desire, commitment and purpose. Palace struggled to leave their half in the first 20 minutes but battled bravely, before using the pace of Cameron Jerome and Jason Puncheon to build on the counter. Branislav Ivanovic in particular struggled with clever bursts from Puncheon, but ultimately the Eagles could not create enough chances to put Petr Cech under pressure. Their best effort nearly saw Stuart O'Keefe scramble home a late equaliser, but Terry put in a trademark block on the line and with that chances of parity probably went.
Sports Mole's man of the match
Ramires: Chelsea's energetic Brazilian just about takes this crown ahead of Hazard, and not just for a ferocious winner that was brilliantly placed into the corner from 20 yards. Ramires and Michael Essien definitely won the midfield battle and gave Willian, Hazard and Juan Mata plenty of possession to build attacks.
Mark Clattenburg had little to do but kept the match moving at a brisk pace, with his most notable involvement to book Ivanovic after he continued to moan about the award of a free kick. Just the three yellow cards tell the story of a game played with little spite or malice in truth.
Begrudgingly I'll also give this award to Ramires, who with the goal at his mercy late on inexplicably decided to pass across goal rather than aim at a gaping net from 12 yards. Terry comes in a close second for allowing Chamakh to wander free and meet Joel Ward's cross for the Palace equaliser.
Chelsea: Mourinho's men are now within two points of league leaders Arsenal and have a massive match to prepare for next Monday, when they visit the Emirates Stadium for a meeting between genuine title contenders in a crunch clash.
Palace: Pulis will hope to keep the positive momentum building at Palace when the Eagles return to Selurst Park next Saturda, in search of a third successive home win at the expense of Newcastle United.