Just three days after beating Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final at Wembley, Chelsea were 3-0 behind inside half an hour at Anfield following an own-goal from Michael Essien and goals from Jordan Henderson and Daniel Agger.
Ramires scored for Chelsea early in the second half before Jonjo Shelvey ended any hope of a comeback with his first Premier League goal.
The defeat means a top four position is now beyond the reach of Chelsea, who will finish in sixth spot, currently sitting five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with just three on offer – if they likely beat already relegated Blackburn in their final league match of the season on Sunday (May 13).
Ten-man Tottenham, meanwhile, also spurned the chance to go third in the Premier League after a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa, for whom a point all but assured their top-flight survival.
Ciaran Clark gave the hosts the lead at Villa Park via a deflected first-half opener and their cause was aided further still when Spurs were reduced to 10 men when Danny Rose was sent off for a challenge on Alan Hutton.
Harry Redknapp’s team soon responded though via Emmanuel Adebayor’s penalty, yet they were unable to force a winner, meaning they remain a point adrift of North London rivals Arsenal in fourth place going into next weekend’s final round of fixtures.
It leaves their Champions League prospects hanging in the balance, with fifth-placed Newcastle still just a point behind.
Manchester United ensured the race for the Premier League title will go to the final game of the season as they beat Swansea City 2-0 at Old Trafford.
First-half goals from Paul Scholes and Ashley Young saw Sir Alex Ferguson’s side draw level on points with City at the top of the table, but with a vastly inferior goal difference.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini meanwhile adopted a cautious approach after a 2-0 victory at Newcastle left his side on the brink of the Premier League.
Yaya Toure’s two goals at St James’ Park here on Sunday left visitors City top of the table.
City, who haven’t lost at home in the league all season, will welcome strugglers QPR for their final match.
At the other end of the table, Blackburn Rovers were relegated to the Championship with a match to spare after a 1-0 defeat at home to Wigan Athletic on Monday, and Stoke threw away a two-goal advantage to draw 2-2 against West Bromwich Albion.
Everton extended their unbeaten run to eight league games on Sunday but had to settle for a point in a goalless draw away to already-relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Meanwhile, Martin Petrov put Bolton on their way with a 24th minute penalty before a 72nd minute own goal from Billy Jones looked set to hand Wanderers a vital three points at the Reebok Stadium on Sunday.
As The Phuket News tipping competition enters its final week, it will now taken a near miracle for anyone to catch ‘gafferworld’, as he closes in on the return flight to the UK, courtesy of Albatross Lufthansa City Center.