LONDON — More than just a blip in form, Jose Mourinho's Chelsea Premier League title defense is in trouble after only four games.
There's a long way to go but a 2-1 home loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday left the champions trailing irresistible leader Manchester City by eight points and added the gloom around Stamford Bridge.
This stadium once seemed to be impenetrable for Chelsea's Premier League opponents. Not this season. Although this was only Mourinho's second home league loss in 100 games, it followed a 2-2 draw with Swansea on the opening day in west London.
"It's difficult to not only overcome the quality of the team but the manager here," Palace manager Alan Pardew said. "This team today just had a belief they were going to win."
Not since 1982 had the south London team won a game at its rival north west of the River Thames.
"We deserved more, I don't want to say we deserved to win because it's not true," Mourinho said.
"Four points in four points is a very bad start."
The second-half collapse reinforced the need for defensive reinforcements, with Chelsea's pursuit of center back John Stones being repeatedly rebuffed by Everton.
John Terry, a previously solid presence at the heart of Chelsea's defense until this season, was forced to watch from the stands after being sent off at West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
Terry's absence did not seem much of a loss in the first half when Chelsea controlled a tepid encounter without scoring, but the home defense was leaky after the break.
The game came to life in the 65th minute when a speedy break down the left flank by the visitors led to Yannick Bolasie crossing to Bakary Sako, who resisted Cesar Azpilicueta's challenge to put the ball beyond goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Mourinho's response was to replace Willian with striker Radamel Falcao and the Colombia striker delivered in the 79th with his first goal since January during his ill-fated season with Manchester United.
The creator was fellow new recruit Pedro Rodriguez, who whipped in the cross that Falcao met with a diving header at the near post.
"He's a boy who came from a difficult period," Mourinho said. "It's a goal that means nothing for the team."
That's because inside two minutes, Chelsea was stunned again.
Bolasie and Sako helped to create the goal this time for Palace. Sako, who was playing in the second tier last season, nudged the ball back for the unmarked Joel Ward to head into the net.
Not since November 2011 has Chelsea conceded two or more goals in consecutive games on home soil, before Mourinho returned for a second spell in charge in 2013.
For Pardew it was a third victory over Mourinho in less than two years, with the previous successes coming while in charge of Newcastle.
"It was a stadium expecting Chelsea to win, most times they win here — to overcome the power of the team takes a considerable effort," Pardew said. "We kept creating chances and it's very difficult to do here."
Chelsea's only previous home league loss under Mourinho came against Sunderland in April 2014, with the team winning 76 times out of 100 games, which includes the Portuguese manager's 2004-07 reign.
Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris