Chelsea booked their place in the FA Cup fourth round as four second-half goals took them past Championship side Preston at Stamford Bridge.
Armando Broja opened the scoring with a superb glancing header from Malo Gusto’s left-wing cross just before the hour mark and Thiago Silva was left unmarked to head home from a corner eight minutes later.
A third goal in 11 minutes came when Raheem Sterling’s dipping free-kick from 20 yards out beat a helpless Freddie Woodman in the Preston goal.
Enzo Fernandez added a fourth from close range late on following a check by the video assistant referee after he had initially been flagged offside.
The scoreline was harsh on Preston, who were lively in the first half and looked to attack Chelsea at every opportunity, but the hosts had the better chances.
Cole Palmer had the pick of them but dinked wide after being picked out by a pinpoint ball over the top from Fernandez, who had a excellent chance of his own but headed straight at Woodman from six yards out.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side were far more clinical after the break to take the game away from Preston as the visitors tired.
Chelsea can now turn their attention to the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final at Middlesbrough on Tuesday.
As comfortable as it ended up being, for nearly an hour this was a frustrating evening for Chelsea.
Preston were determined to give their vociferous travelling support something to shout about and had no intention of simply sitting in and allowing the home side to dictate proceedings.
Ryan Lowe’s side struggled to create much in the way of clear-cut chances but their intent was clear and they had enough of a threat, often through Liam Millar down the left, that Chelsea had to remain alert.
Chances went begging at the other end in the first 45 minutes but the hosts’ quality came through in the second period.
The first goal exemplified that as Gusto whipped in a pinpoint right-footed cross for Broja, who leapt to flick the ball in off the far post.
Preston’s first-half exertions began to show and it did not take much of a drop off for the Blues to hammer home their advantage.
They quickly put the result beyond doubt and Pochettino was able to hand a debut to 17-year-old Michael Golding in the closing stages with Woodman having to react well to deny the teenager from close range in stoppage time.