Second half goals from Cole, Diame and Maiga turn game on its head after early Mata strike
‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’ came the taunts from all sides of the ground towards Benitez after his side let slip the one-goal lead given to them by Juan Mata in a first half they completely controlled.
West Ham hit back after the break as Sam Allardyce introduced Mohamed Diame, who scored the decisive second goal for the hosts four minutes from time in between strikes from Carlton Cole and Modibo Maiga.
It leaves Chelsea without a win in its last seven league fixtures while West Ham move to within four points off its decorated London rivals.
It seemed an unlikely result after a first half dominated by the visitors, but they were unable to find a second goal and tired after the break, perhaps an early sign of the fatigue in the squad that has worried Benitez as he prepares for the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
Benitez made two changes from the side that drew with Fulham in midweek, recalling Juan Mata and Gary Cahill with Brazilian playmaker Oscar the main casualty as he dropped to the bench. West Ham was dealt a prematch blow with the news that Andy Carroll will be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a knee injury so Sam Allardyce selected Carlton Cole for the lone striker role.
Benitez would probably have been grateful to get away from the soulless, bitter atmosphere in which he has found himself at Stamford Bridge, not that it stopped the away fans from hailing former manager Roberto Di Matteo in the 16th minute as has become custom.
By that point, the European champions were dominant and already ahead thanks to Mata’s 13th minute strike.
Fernando Torres may be woefully off form in front of goal - he has not gone more than 12 hours without scoring - but the 50 million pounds striker played a decisive role in the opener.
After making a sharp run down the right side of the penalty area, Torres had the vision and alertness to cut the ball back for Mata to sidefoot effortlessly into the far corner from 12 yards.
Torres should have doubled the score after being set up by Ramires following a swift counterattack, but the Spaniard’s finish was horribly off target, betraying a complete lack of confidence.
Chelsea was dominant. Eden Hazard fired just over the crossbar, then Mata forced a superb save from West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen after being set up by Victor Moses.
Yet the goal wouldn’t come, and the fragility of a one-goal lead was highlighted just before the break when Kevin Nolan forced a full-stretch save from Petr Cech with a powerful header from seven yards.
The Hammers started the second-half with far more energy as Allardyce made a double substitution at the break, bringing on Matt Taylor and Diame for James Tomkins and Gary O’Neil.
West Ham played with far more energy after the restart and in the 63rd minute, the hosts found the equaliser with a goal typical of so many Allardyce teams.
Matt Jarvis whipped in a cross that hit Gary Cahill’s head and looped high into the air. It became a simple battle between Cole and Ivanovic and the West Ham striker wanted it more, heading into the bottom corner from five yards.
Chelsea’s response was almost immediate. Jaaskelainen made a double save to deny Hazard and then Torres but was motionless as he watched Mata’s stunning free-kick from 30 yards curl over the wall and rattle against the post.
At the other end, Jarvis raced on to Mark Noble’s pass and forced Cech into a fingertip save before Ashley Cole headed Winston Reid’s header off the line from the resulting corner.
Four minutes from time, the Hammers did find the net. Cole received a throw-in and teed up Diame, who lashed home low and hard past Cech to send the home fans into raptures.
There was still time for a third. Ashley Cole conceded possession with a terrible pass and Maiga was on hand to finish after Taylor’s initial shot was saved by Cech.