LONDON - Having squandered a stoppage-time penalty in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur that left them with a return of six points from the last 21, a pall of gloom should really have been hovering over champions Chelsea.
However, the mood was remarkably buoyant following a display at White Hart Lane that, though still a long way from what was being served up last season and in the early days of this one, was certainly an improvement on some in recent weeks.
Maybe it is the fact that even after a run of three draws, three defeats and a solitary win over Fulham since October they remain only a point behind Arsenal and Manchester City and level with Manchester United in this craziest of title races.
Perhaps it was the fact that Didier Drogba, despite having his penalty saved by Heurelho Gomes, looked on the way back to his old self when he came off the bench to outmuscle Michael Dawson for Chelsea's 70th-minute equaliser.
Or could it have been the sight of Frank Lampard back in Chelsea colours for the first time since August as the England midfielder, dogged by groin problems, joined the fray for the last 12 minutes?
Things might have been different if Spurs had held the lead given to them by Roman Pavlyuchenko after 15 minutes as the visitors dominated first-half possession but lacked spark.
But Chelsea eventually took a stranglehold on the game, penning the normally attack-minded Spurs side deep into their own half and deservedly getting back on level terms.
"We have to be happy because we played well against a strong team away from home," manager Carlo Ancelotti told reporters.
"We had the chance to win with the penalty but our performance was good and we can look forward with confidence now. This performance was a good place to start.
"We are on the right way and now hopefully our difficult moment is behind us. We were very close to winning and we will win the next game."
It was a confident prediction for next week's home game against Manchester United, who host Arsenal on Monday in one of the two games in hand they now have on Chelsea.
But it was a feeling shared by captain John Terry, who was back to his fist-pumping best on Sunday, urging his team-mates to give more and leading by example on several occasions with not only his usual crunching tackles but a handful of determined gallops over the halfway line.
"We should have won the game. Playing the way we did in the second half, that's more like the Chelsea we all know," Terry said.
"The hunger and spirit and determination was much better today. You can lose and you can draw but when the crowd doesn't see the passion that's what hurts. We will all admit we've lacked (the passion) but now we've got two huge games to come.
"Arsenal are looking good and United but nobody has hit their top form and if we do that over Christmas we have a very good chance."comments