Substitute Danny Welbeck scored a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser for Brighton to deny Chelsea victory and deal a blow to their hopes of keeping pace with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Chelsea looked set to move three points clear of fellow title contenders Liverpool when Romelu Lukaku marked his first top-flight start for two months by giving his side a lead, which they held until the 91st minute.
Brighton carved out 18 chances in total at Stamford Bridge but looked set for disappointment before Welbeck met Marc Cucurella’s chipped cross.
On a bad night for Chelsea, they also lost defenders Reece James and Andreas Christensen to injury.
They head into 2022 second in the table – one point above third-placed Liverpool, who they face on Sunday at Stamford Bridge (16:30 GMT).
Chelsea blow it at the death
On what felt like a crucial night in the title race, Chelsea closed 2021 – a year to remember thanks to their Champions League triumph – on a disappointing note.
The mood was upbeat when Lukaku scored for the second successive game.
After coming off the bench to inspire the Blues to victory at Aston Villa on Sunday, he marked his first league start since 16 October with a busy performance capped by his first-half header.
Yet Chelsea could not hold out for victory and have now dropped 11 points from their last eight league games, with three draws in their last four matches.
Another concern for Tuchel will be the mounting injuries, with England defender James, who limped off in the first half, and Denmark defender Christensen, who did not appear for the second half, joining the list of casualties.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (ankle) and Thiago Silva (hamstring) missed this game along with Ben Chilwell, who is to undergo surgery. In addition, Timo Werner has not played since 11 December after testing positive for coronavirus, while N’Golo Kante came off the bench despite suffering a knee injury against Villa.
With Chelsea facing six matches in the Premier League, Carabao Cup and FA Cup in January, they can ill afford any more absences among key players.
While the sight of Lukaku celebrating in front of Chelsea fans was pleasing for Tuchel, the German could now be forced to turn to the transfer window to ensure his side stays in the hunt for trophies.
More to follow
Brighton & Hove Albion
- 4ChristensenSubstituted forChalobahat 45′minutes
- 2RüdigerBooked at 41mins
- 8KovacicBooked at 58mins
- 24JamesSubstituted forAlonsoat 27′minutes
- 19MountBooked at 81mins
- 20Hudson-OdoiBooked at 64minsSubstituted forKantéat 67′minutes
- 2LampteySubstituted forMwepuat 66′minutes
- 8BissoumaBooked at 81mins
- 15ModerSubstituted forAlzateat 88′minutes
- 10Mac AllisterSubstituted forWelbeckat 80′minutes
- Mike Dean
Match ends, Chelsea 1, Brighton and Hove Albion 1.
Second Half ends, Chelsea 1, Brighton and Hove Albion 1.
Goal! Chelsea 1, Brighton and Hove Albion 1. Danny Welbeck (Brighton and Hove Albion) header from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Marc Cucurella with a cross.
Joël Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Mason Mount (Chelsea).
Foul by Steven Alzate (Brighton and Hove Albion).
N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Steven Alzate replaces Jakub Moder.
Attempt missed. Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left following a corner.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Dan Burn.
Attempt missed. N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Romelu Lukaku.
Attempt missed. Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left.
Attempt blocked. Joël Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Yves Bissouma.
Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion) is shown the yellow card.
Mason Mount (Chelsea) is shown the yellow card.
Offside, Chelsea. César Azpilicueta tries a through ball, but Romelu Lukaku is caught offside.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Danny Welbeck replaces Alexis Mac Allister.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Marc Cucurella.
Attempt blocked. Mason Mount (Chelsea) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt saved. Trevoh Chalobah (Chelsea) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Mason Mount with a cross.
- Our coverage of your Premier League club is bigger and better than ever before – here’s everything you need to know to make sure you never miss a moment