The opening goal of a lively London derby came on 15 minutes, when referee Phil Dowd penalised John Terry for a debatable handball in the 18-yard box and Jermain Defoe lashed home the resultant spot-kick.
Harry Redknapp's hosts were all over Carlo Ancelotti's league leaders like a bad suit, and after Florent Malouda had a goal disallowed for offside, they doubled their lead on 44 minutes when Gareth Bale beat Petr Cech at his near post with a low right-footed shot from 20 yards out.
A bad day for the Blues, who had earlier seen title rivals Manchester United snatch a stoppage-time win over neighbours City at Eastlands, got worse when skipper Terry received a second yellow card for a rash lunge on the marauding Bale on 67 minutes.
The visitors pulled a goal back in stoppage time when Frank Lampard swept home a right-wing cross from close range.
But Spurs held on for a second London derby win of the week, which has now made them favourites to finish fourth and play in next season's Champions League as they lead Manchester City by two points.
Television scheduling meant the match kicked off with United only a point behind Ancelotti's leaders, having defeated their rivals City with a last-gasp winner.
That result also favoured Spurs in their hunt for fourth place as they knew a victory would take them back above City - and within a quarter of an hour they were ahead.
Malouda's powerful drive from 30 yards may have been parried by Heurelho Gomes in the early stages but it was Spurs who were applying the pressure before the deadlock was broken.
Roman Pavlyuchenko fired over from the edge of the area and also had an effort blocked by Alex - but Redknapp's men were not made to wait long for their opener.
They were denied penalties when Defoe appeared to get his shirt pulled by Terry and when Bale went over John Mikel Obi's challenge, then Dowd pointed to the spot after the third appeal. Pavlyuchenko stepped over Bale's cross from the left and Terry leant in with his arm, enough for Dowd to award a penalty.
Terry was accused of getting away with a penalty following a similar incident against Bolton in midweek but the former England skipper's luck looked to have run out on this occasion.
There was still a chance of a reprieve as Defoe had missed his previous two penalties this season and was asked to step down from spot-kick duties, but Tom Huddlestone then missed against Bolton so the England striker volunteered again and this time sent Cech the wrong way.
Redknapp's men looked for a second and Cech was called into action when Pavlyuchenko spun on the edge of the area and curled a shot that needed tipping over. Then Luka Modric went on a mazy run that led to David Bentley getting a volley deflected wide by Terry.
It got worse for Chelsea as Mikel picked up an injury and headed straight down the tunnel when he was replaced by Michael Ballack in the 34th minute.
They did have the ball in the net shortly after, but the flag had gone up for offside when Yury Zhirkov skipped Malouda through to finish past Gomes.
Bale doubled the lead just before the break when he cut inside Paulo Ferreira and used his unfavoured right foot to beat Cech at the near post.
Lampard almost pulled one back immediately but Gomes pulled off a save at full stretch to block the volley, replicating his performance against Arsenal on Wednesday when he was at his best to protect Spurs' lead.
There was drama at half-time, starting with Terry's spat with a fan by the tunnel.
Ancelotti's response was to use his remaining substitutes at the break, with Nicolas Anelka and Branislav Ivanovic coming on for Joe Cole and Ferreira, but Didier Drogba then pulled up injured just before the restart. With all of Chelsea's substitutes used, Drogba hobbled back on prevent his team playing with 10 men.
Defoe had a chance to extend the lead in the 50th minute when Pavlyuchenko poked his strike partner through, but Cech was down sharply to save the one-on-one opportunity.
The feisty atmosphere went up a notch when Lampard and Huddlestone crashed into a tackle, leading to the Spurs player getting booked and Deco also being cautioned for his role in the aftermath.
Terry was also cautioned midway through the second half for bringing down Pavlyuchenko from behind when the Russian was running at goal.
He got his marching orders 23 minutes from full-time, with his second foul on Bale.
"Twice I got the ball," he told his bench as he headed down the tunnel.
Bentley almost added another but his cheeky lob was tipped over by Cech and there was also time for Gomes to deny Drogba from close range and for Lampard to pull one back in stoppage time.