Drogba, back from the Africa Cup of Nations with a double againstArsenal last weekend, scored his 23rd goal of the season to draw levelwith Wayne Rooney as the leading scorers in the English game.
As well as scoring and assisting in goals, he exuded an exemplaryattitude and approach as the Blues ultimately overcame the Bluebirdsfor a seventh consecutive home win.
Hot shot: Didier Drogba bursts through to score Chelsea's first goal
Injury-hit Cardiff had their moments, notably in equalising theIvorian's goal through Michael Chopra before half-time, but the PremierLeague leaders' quality prevailed in the second half with goals byMichael Ballack, Daniel Sturridge - maintaining his record of scoringin every round - and Salomon Kalou.
'Cardiff worked their socks off and gave us a lot of problems inthe first half,' said Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins, standingin for Carlo Ancelotti, who may not have wanted to endure questionsabout replacing the misfiring Joe Cole at half-time.
'But we upped the tempo in the second half and in the end it wascomfortable. I thought the professionalism of Didier and Michael shonethrough and I would add Frank to that. They took it by the throat.' Hedismissed talk of Cole's poor form, a worry for England manager FabioCapello to add to the injury to Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole.
Bluebirds soar: Michael Chopra levelled matters at Stamford Bridge
'After such a long lay-off, it's going to be a shock to Joe's systemand it takes time to reach tip-top form,' said Wilkins. 'But he'sworking hard and we don't see any problems.'
Cardiff manager Dave Jones, who led his side to the final two yearsago, was philosophical, his priority now promotion from theChampionship with the next instalment at home to West Brom on Tuesday.
'It was hard on my team,' he said. 'The scoreline looks like adrubbing but we gave a good account of ourselves. We wanted to comehere and have a go rather than shut up shop.'
Off to a flyer: Didier Drogba opened the scoring after just two minutes
His side got off to the worst possible start, conceding a goal injust one minute 50 seconds. For Chelsea, it was too easy. John ObiMikel curled a ball forward into the inside right channel when Drogba'srun went unchecked, with the Cardiff defence static. He simply strodeon and buried the ball past David Marshall. The dragon's tail had beentweaked.
What would be the response? Surprisingly good. While Chelsea'ssupporters settled down for an afternoon of exhibition football and agoal glut, Cardiff had other ideas.
Chelsea looked especially vulnerable in the air early on. WithTerry in the side at Everton in midweek they had looked dodgy. Withouthim they looked dodgier still.
Gabor Gyepes got in a header that was kicked away. Peter Whittingham'sfree-kick was met by Anthony Gerrard and Henrique Hilario had to make aflying save.
High flyer: Chelsea keeper Henrique Hilario makes a save
Then came the equaliser, Chelsea again found wanting in the air. Chris Burke sent in a cross from the left and Chopra escaped the labouring Alex and Ricardo Carvalho to glance home a header. It all left Lampard shaking his head at half-time. Having readjusted, with Cole - for all Wilkins' words, clearly not an Ancelotti favourite - replaced by Kalou for the second half, Chelsea quickly regained the lead. Drogba fed a ball inside Mark Kennedy and Ballack ran on to fire past Marshall.
Soon, Chelsea had all but sealed the game. Sturridge played a ball in to Drogba, the ball breaking off a defender back to Sturridge, who shot low through Marshall.
Kevin McNaughton curled a shot just wide as Cardiff made one last rally but Chelsea gilded their lily when Kalou was left alone on the penalty spot for a firm header home from Paulo Ferreira's cross.
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