LONDON (AFP) - Chelsea eased the pressure on beleaguered boss Andre Villas-Boas as the Blues gave a clinical display of finishing to beat Newcastle 3-0 at St James' Park on Saturday. Villas-Boas has come under fire in recent weeks following a miserable run of results, but the Portuguese coach was able to silence the critics after goals from Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge lifted the Blues into third place in the Premier League. "If there was a result today that was fair, it was Chelsea to win," Villas-Boas said. "The referee made a decision that he thought was right not to send off David Luiz, maybe the decision fell our way. "But it doesn't overshadow the performance of the Chelsea players. It was a win that nobody was expecting so it's a massive win for us." After Tuesday's League Cup quarter-final exit against Liverpool, Villas-Boas -- whose side started the day in fifth place -- could ill afford to lose further ground in the fight for a top four finish. He got an early break as Chelsea were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men in the fourth minute when Luiz hauled down Demba Ba. Luiz was clearly the last defender but referee Mike Dean decided to book the Brazilian rather than send him off. Dean ruled in Chelsea's favour again in the 14th minute when the official gave a penalty for Yohan Cabaye's trip on Sturridge. However, Frank Lampard's low spot-kick was weakly struck and Tim Krul pushed it onto a post. Chelsea took the lead when Drogba struck with a bullet header from Juan Mata's cross in the 38th minute. Drogba almost scored at the wrong end in the second half when his attempted clearance hit the bar and John Terry had to clear off the line from Sammy Ameobi. But the win, courtesy of a first-half Didier Drogba effort and a pair of late strikes from Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge, saw Chelsea climb above fourth-placed Newcastle, who lost for the first time on home soil this season, into third place ahead of Tottenham's clash with Bolton later on Saturday. A planned minute's applause for former Newcastle midfielder Gary Speed, who died aged 42 this week, was observed by a sell-out crowd before kick-off. With a sombre mood inside the stadium beforehand, a subdued start was perhaps expected but the game was sparked into life with just three minutes on the clock. Yohan Cabaye threaded a low ball behind the static Chelsea backline for Demba Ba to chase, only for the Senegal striker to be wrestled to the turf by David Luiz. With the Brazilian centre-back the last line of defence and the home support baying for a red card, referee Mike Dean quickly incurred the wrath of the Newcastle players when Luiz was shown just yellow. The early drama refused to subside and, just moments after an 11th-minute tribute to Speed, the visitors were awarded a penalty. Sturridge jinked his way into the area only for the out-stretched leg of Cabaye to curtail his progress and Dean pointed to the spot. Frank Lampard stepped up in search of his ninth goal of the season but Tim Krul, the Holland goalkeeper, was equal to the driven effort as he palmed onto the post and the game remained goalless. Sturridge was getting a lot of joy down Chelsea's right and before the midway point of the opening period he had been denied by first a post and then Krul. The frenetic start continued and Ba, having improvised to back heel a Peter Lovenkrands cross towards goal, was thwarted when Petr Cech clawed over the crossbar on 24 minutes. Ba again went close on 35 minutes, this time seeing a 10-yard header crack the base of the post after Danny Simpson had delivered from the right. But it was Chelsea who seized the lead on 38 minutes when Drogba headed home his third of the season after Juan Mata had escaped Cabaye inside the area before dropping delicately onto the Ivorian's forehead. Newcastle made another change at half-time with Shola Ameobi replacing the ineffectual Hatem Ben Arfa, the former Marseille forward. And United could have been on level terms within 10 minutes of the second period when Drogba inadvertently shuddered his own crossbar when attempting to head clear from a Cabaye corner. Chelsea broke and the home side again had Krul to thank as, with Ramires clean through on goal, he used his shin to deflect the Brazilian's low shot wide. Ameobi was joined by younger brother Sammy on 71 minutes and within moments the junior sibling had seen a 12-yard volley hacked from the line by John Terry. Still United pressed for parity and it was Shola Ameobi who tested the woodwork with a vicious blast 10 minutes from time. Again Chelsea survived and the result was made safe in the 89th minute when Kalou turned in from close range after good work from fellow substitute Fernando Torres. But there was still time for Sturridge to get his name on the score sheet when in stoppage time, he drifted infield from the right before drilling into the bottom corner.