The Blues hit eight past Villa in the corresponding fixture last season and were quickly into their stride again as Antonio Luna scored an own goal in the seventh minute following good work by Eden Hazard.
Villa responded on the stroke of half-time when Christian Benteke struck a fine finish past Petr Cech, before Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann came close to putting the visitors in front early in the second half.
Branislav Ivanovic, moments after being booked for catching Benteke with a flailing arm, then popped up with the crucial goal on 73 minutes as he powered in a header from Frank Lampard’s excellent free-kick.
There was further anguish for Villa as Cech brilliantly denied Weimann and late appeals for a penalty for a handball by John Terry fell on deaf ears.
Just as against Hull City on Sunday, Chelsea started with chants of ‘Jose Mourinho’ echoing around the ground and with a purpose which saw them take an early lead.
Oscar fed Hazard in the left side of the area and the Belgian’s shot was blocked by Brad Guzan, but only into the path of Luna who could do nothing about the deflection into his own net.
Villa also went behind after six minutes on Saturday, but feared conceding another as Chelsea maintained the intensity with which they began the game.
Yet Villa, in contrast to last December, were not as porous and try as they might, with Oscar and Hazard threatening, Chelsea could not breach the visitors’ defence.
Living off scraps, Demba Ba shot straight at Guzan before Villa broke forward, equalising with the last kick of the half.
Agbonlahor surged by Ivanovic down the left and cut the ball back for Benteke to shoot left-footed and low into the net.
The second half resumed at a frenetic pace and Agbonlahor curled just off target from a Matthew Lowton cross-field pass and Weimann forced Cech into a save from a Benteke cross.
Chelsea were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men as Ivanovic challenged Benteke in the air and caught the Belgian with a wild arm.
Villa manager Paul Lambert, who was showing the same energy as his team in a technical area tussle with Mourinho, was furious.
Lampard hooked the ball off the foot of Jores Okore from the resulting Ashley Westwood free-kick as Villa threatened once more, but then Chelsea struck.
Ron Vlaar shoved over Romelu Lukaku and Lampard swung in a free-kick which Ivanovic met unopposed six yards out as all Villa’s strong defensive work was undone with one set-piece.
Cech saved well from Weimann and Terry survived a handball shout following Fabian Delph’s cross as Chelsea clung on to go three points clear at the top and set them up for Monday’s trip to Manchester United.