After a week dominated by the latest bout of managerial turmoil in West London, the focus was switched back to matters on the pitch. A quick-fire Nicolas Anelka hat trick gave Chelsea a deserved victory over Watford in front of their new manager Guus Hiddink.

Chelsea, no doubt eager to impress their coach, raced out of the starting blocks and applied the majority of the early pressure. Watford offered little going forward and it was all one way traffic.

But the Blues couldn’t find a way past a strong Watford rearguard and a shock seemed on the cards when Tamas Priskin beat the offside trap and chipped the ball over Petr Cech. However, Anelka scored two goals within 90 seconds of each other and then completed his hat trick in injury time to add some gloss to his side’s victory.

Salomon Kalou almost gave the away side the lead within just 20 seconds - but he failed to get a touch on Didier Drogba’s inviting cross.

Drogba came much closer when he stung the palms of Scott Loach with a sweetly struck volley after seven minutes.

Adrian Mariappa had Watford’s first effort on target four minutes later, a header that was comfortable for Cech to deal with.

Chelsea were enjoying upwards of 50% possession but as was so often the case under the tutelage of Luiz Felipe Scolari, they were finding it hard to convert their possession into goals.

Frank Lampard had a trademark free kick punched out by Loach who impressed despite his relative inexperience. Another inexperienced player to catch the eye was Chelsea’s Michael Mancienne, making his debut at right-back.

Kept on the fringes of the first team by Scolari, he was given a starting berth by caretaker manager Ray Wilkins and he put in an accomplished performance marked by solid defending and productive forays forward.

The woodwork came to Watford’s rescue on 34 minutes. Drogba held the ball up and laid it off to strike partner Anelka who beat Loach but not the post.

The pressure continued unabated into the second half. Loach was forced back into action three minutes into the second period, palming away a venomous drive from Drogba.

Just past the hour mark Michael Ballack wasted Chelsea’s best opportunity yet, conspiring to knock the ball over the bar when the ball rebounded to him in front of goal.

He was made to pay for his profligacy when Watford took a shock lead.

A Chelsea corner - like so many others - was cleared to safety and the Hornets broke. Priskin beat the offside trap and found himself with just Cech to beat. As the Czech international rushed out to close down the angle, Priskin coolly lobbed the ball over him and into the net.

A sense of de ja vu began to descend on Vicarage Road. Chelsea exited the FA Cup at the hands of lower league opposition to the same scoreline, going down 1-0 to Barnsley at Oakwell.

But Anelka stepped forward to steady the ship and end a tumultuous week with some good news. Parity was restored through an overhead kick from a Lampard corner and the Frenchman nodded in Ashley Cole’s cross a little over a minute later to set Chelsea on their way into the last eight.

Cech had to be at his best to keep his side’s lead intact. Jobi McAnuff fashioned an opening in the box but Cech was alert and kept out the attacker’s close range effort.

The Blues went down the other end and Anelka completed his hat trick, taking a touch and then quickly firing a shot that caught Loach off-guard.

Roman Abramovich looked on approvingly, flanked by a cold looking Guus Hiddink. This win will be welcomed by all at the club but the Dutchman tasked with saving Chelsea’s season will know that much tougher tests lie ahead.

Quick-fire Anelka steadies Chelsea