Chelsea's title challenge fading after 1-1 draw with Fulham

LONDON (Reuters) -- Chelsea's faltering title challenge suffered another blow when they were held to a 1-1 draw by neighbours Fulham in Monday's early kickoff at Stamford Bridge to register their third successive draw in the Premier League.

They took the lead through Juan Mata who lashed in a left-foot shot after 47 minutes but Fulham, who have not won at Chelsea since 1979, equalised with a close-range Clint Dempsey goal nine minutes later.

The visitors played the better football for the rest of the match and left with a well-earned point.

Since beating leaders Manchester City on Dec. 12, Chelsea have drawn at Wigan Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur and Monday's result left them in fourth place on 34 points from 18 games -- 10 behind City.

City are in action later on Monday at West Bromwich Albion (1500 GMT) in a busy Boxing Day holiday programme when second-placed Manchester United host Wigan. Tottenham Hotspur, who are third, visit Norwich City on Tuesday (1930).

City lead with 44 points from 17 games ahead of United who have 42 with Spurs on 35 plus a match in hand on the top two.

While Monday's result was a bad one for Chelsea, it was a good point for Fulham who responded well after losing 5-0 at home to Manchester United on Wednesday and they stay 13th.

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