Mason Mount scored a late winner as Chelsea scraped to an unimpressive 1-0 win at a struggling Fulham side that played half the match a man light.
Frank Lampard's side went into the match without a win in any of their three previous Premier League games, a run that had seen their coach come under increased pressure. Although they were able to end that streak, the performance was by no means vintage.
Chelsea had the better of the first half but did not begin to exert genuine control until after Antonee Robinson's dismissal in the 44th minute left the Blues with a numerical advantage.
They had great difficulty making the most of that sending off, but eventually Mount struck 12 minutes from time to move Chelsea back up to seventh in the table.
Chelsea briefly appeared to find their groove when they created a flurry of chances in quick succession before the half-hour mark of the contest.
Alphonse Areola had to be alert twice, saving from Olivier Giroud and Antonio Rudiger either side of Mount striking the crossbar during what was a promising three-minute spell from the visitors.
While that was not the start of a prolonged onslaught, Chelsea's chances were helped just before half-time when Robinson was shown a straight red for a wild tackle on Cesar Azpilicueta that completely missed the ball and sent the Spaniard flying.
Despite having an extra man, Chelsea's chance creation frequency did not appear to increase, two of their better opportunities ultimately resulting in offside calls.
A defensive calamity just past the hour then almost saw Chelsea fall behind, as Azpilicueta's poor pass forced Edouard Mendy to stretch and nudge the ball to Ivan Cavaleiro, but luckily Thiago Silva was in attendance to block his shot in front of an empty goal.
Chelsea finally found a way through in the latter stages, Mount drilling a volley low past Areola after the Frenchman had diverted a left-wing cross right to him.
Next up for Chelsea is a trip to Leicester on Tuesday with the Foxes enjoying another successful season under Brendan Rodgers.
Leicester closed to within a point of Manchester United at the top ahead of the Red Devils' blockbuster clash with champions Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
One moment of magic from Maddison made the difference against Southampton as he smashed high into the roof of the net from a narrow angle on 37 minutes.
The midfielder also remembered to adhere to new Premier League guidelines on goal celebrations as he mimicked handshakes and high-fives at a distance.
"If little things like that are required to keep football going that's what we need to do," said Maddison, after criticism from politicians over exuberant celebrations while infection rates of coronavirus in England are soaring.
"Footballers get a lot of stick. It's nice to turn something like that into a lighter note because the whole country wants football to continue."
Stuart Armstrong struck the bar for Saints in the second-half, but the visitors badly missed the presence of top scorer Danny Ings up front, who was absent due to a positive Covid-19 test, as they missed the chance to leapfrog Chelsea and Tottenham.
Harvey Barnes then sealed the points for Leicester deep into stoppage time on the counter-attack.