Taiwo Awoniyi’s brace denied Chelsea interim manager, Frank Lampard only his second win, as Nottingham Forest played a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Awoniyi gave Forest an early lead, helped by an Edouard Mendy mistake as he looped a header over the stranded goalkeeper.
Early in the second half, Sterling found the net twice in a matter of minutes to put Chelsea ahead.
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The lead only lasted three minutes, as Awoniyi beat Mendy with another header to draw Forest level.
Overall, it’s a welcome point for Steve Cooper’s side who edge closer to safety.
Chelsea enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening exchanges but it was Forest who took an unlikely lead after Mendy – who started his first game since November – made a big error on his return.
Awoniyi wanted the ball most when Renan Lodi floated a cross into a Chelsea-dominated box, and the Nigerian rose highest between Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiashile to nod the ball over an erratic Mendy who had needlessly rushed off his line.
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Joe Worrall replaced Brennan Johnson in Forest’s only change as they established a more defensive set-up, and the Forest skipper proved Steve Cooper’s decision right with a handful of important blocks and interceptions in the first half.
He denied Raheem Sterling, who was through on goal, with a last-ditch challenge after Enzo Fernandez had lifted a ball over the top, and later cut out a Conor Gallagher cross which was destined to be nodded in by Joao Felix from close-range.
The Stamford Bridge crowd was treated to three goals in 11 minutes shortly into the second period.
Sterling drew the scores level after Forest were caught sleeping at the back which allowed Trevoh Chalobah to get down the right side of the visitors’ penalty area before pulling a cross back for Sterling, who had all the goal to aim at as he swept the ball past Keylor Navas.
The England forward had the ball in the back of the net again seven minutes later to put Chelsea ahead.
Early substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek picked out Sterling in the box, who cut inside past an overly committed Felipe and onto his right foot before curling a spectacular effort into the far corner.
But Chelsea wouldn’t lead for very long, as Awoniyi caused more trouble in the Blues’ penalty area.
A Forest throw-in into the box was half-cleared but only as far as Orel Mangala on the edge, who looped a cross back over the top of the Chelsea defence towards an unmarked Awoniyi at the back post to nod home.
Chelsea pushed for a winner towards the end of the match, but Forest held firm for a valuable point in their bid for Premier League survival.