The league leaders had taken a 14th-minute lead thanks to Branislav Ivanovic’s fourth goal in his last six matches but Nemanja Matic was sent off with 20 minutes to go following an angry reaction to an Ashley Barnes tackle and the visitors drew level soon after through Ben Mee’s 81st-minute header.
Matic, now set to miss next Sunday’s Capital One Cup final against Tottenham, had to be restrained by John Terry and Kurt Zouma as he seethed at Barnes’ lunge.
Chelsea, at the end of a troubled week following events in Paris, will rue two points dropped after dominating for most of the game and allowing Manchester City to cut their lead to five, while manager Jose Mourinho will no doubt reflect on two strong penalty appeals in the first half that did not go their way.
The home team were made to pay for not scoring the crucial second goal before Matic’s dismissal but Burnley – only in the relegation zone on goal difference – also deserve huge credit for keeping their star-studded opponents at bay for more than three-quarters of the contest.
It had appeared to be business as usual going in at half-time with Chelsea deservedly in front courtesy of yet another key goal by their marauding right-back, although most of the credit must go to Eden Hazard.
The Belgium international somehow managed to weave his way past a posse of Burnley players on the right-hand side of the penalty area, before picking out an unmarked Ivanovic six yards out, the Serb side-footing home his sixth goal of the season.
Chelsea could have extended their advantage before the interval had referee Martin Atkinson upheld two strong penalty appeals, the first when Michael Kightly blocked Ivanovic’s goal-bound drive with his arm.
Then in the final minute of the first half striker Diego Costa seemed to be hauled down by Burnley captain Jason Shackell as he sized up a shot on goal, only for the man in the middle to once again wave play on, much to Mourinho’s clear annoyance on the touchline.
However, Chelsea kept on pushing forward after the break in search of that crucial second goal to kill off the spirited visitors, only for Costa, twice, and Matic to narrowly fail to convert half chances.
And the game was then completely turned on its head after 70 minutes when Matic reacted furiously to a dangerous studs-high tackle on him by Burnley striker Ashley Barnes, the holding midfielder shoved his opponent to the ground in a fit of anger.
Referee Atkinson had no choice but to issue Matic with a straight red card, with his compatriot Ivanovic also booked after trying to prevent the official for brandishing his card, although how Barnes managed to stay on the pitch is still a mystery.
The visitors, though, sensed their opportunity to draw level, and after Thibaut Courtois had produced a brilliant one-handed save to deny Barnes, Mee rose high at the back post to head home Kieran Trippier’s left-wing corner for just the left back’s second goal in the last three years, and only the second Chelsea had conceded at home in the league since 1 November.
Paul Merson’s verdict
The referee gets it all wrong. You have to use common sense, as Barnes could have broken Matic’s leg and so the natural reaction is he’s going to get up and push him. And the referee did not even book Barnes, while he did caution Ivanovic for arguing.
Surely the referee should not have seen it? But if he does, he has to send him off though. He had a terrible game, with two stonewall penalties missed as well.
For me, I am not sure what you are meant to do and I think everyone in the world of football would have that sort of reaction, as you are going to be frustrated.
Chelsea: Courtois (7) Ivanovic (8), Zouma (7), Terry (7), Filipe Luis (7); Matic (7), Fabregas (6); Cuadrado (6), Oscar (6), Hazard (9); Diego Costa (7)
Subs: Ramires (6), Drogba (6), Willian (6)
Burnley: Heaton (7); Trippier (7), Shackell (8), Keane (7), Mee (7); Boyd (7), Jones (6), Arfield (6), Kightly (6); Barnes (7), Ings (7)
Subs: Vokes (6)
Man of the match: Eden Hazard