For once, Roberto Mancini did not enjoy his trip to London, and City's first defeat in the capital in 15 months ramped up the pressure on the Blues' bid to claim a Champions League berth.
Chelsea's boys from Brazil David Luiz and Ramires snapped up a goal each to gain their revenge for last season's defeat and hoist the champions above City into third place in the table.
They were pressing to equalise Luiz's opener in time added on when his fellow Brazilian weaved past Joleon Lescott and Aleks Kolarov at the other end to ensure Mancini's side dropped to fourth.
It was a disappointing performance from the Blues, particularly in the light of their previous exploits here. Last season's 4-2 victory came despite a slow beginning and needed the kick start of a Carlos Tevez solo goal just before the break as a trigger.
But this time around, the Blues began well, despite the notable absence of talisman Tevez, who failed a fitness test on his groin to leave new boy Edin Dzeko as the lone front-runner.
Dzeko was presented with an opportunity to score his maiden Premier League goal when the Bosnia and Herzegovina striker received the ball from Aleks Kolarov's cross with his back to goal, but his control nine minutes in was less than perfect.
Midfielder Yaya Toure had already given the Chelsea defence a scare, surging forward to launch a testing drive that Petr Cech did well to turn aside at full stretch
James Milner was also a threat to the home side on their left flank, and supplemented that with a few no-nonsense tackles, one of which saw him entered somewhat unluckily into the referee's notebook.
But it was at the other end of the pitch that City shone in the first half, with Vincent Kompany - revelling in the captain's armband - rising to the challenge with one of his finest performances and Joleon Lescott an able lieutenant alongside him.
Indeed, Joe Hart received such good protection that it was 41 minutes before he had a proper save to make, and while Kalou turned well in the area, he shot too weakly at the England goalkeeper.
Hart should have been beaten in the 50th minute when Fernando Torres and Kalou combined in a sweeping move to set up Malouda, who maanaged to shoot hard and low straight at City's keeper.
Torres, who hardly enjoyed his 27th birthday, made way 20 minutes later as Chelsea switched their strike force to Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, and it was the former who prompted the goal.
His free kick from wide found Luiz and the defender deftly glanced a powerful header beyond Hart's reach and inside the far post to give Chelsea the lead that their possession demanded.