Chelsea scored twice in four second-half minutes to move level on points with Women’s Super League leaders Arsenal and end Manchester United’s 100 per cent record.
United headed into Sunday night’s fixture at Leigh Sports Village with five victories from as many matches.
Alessia Russo pulled one back for the hosts before Erin Cuthbert scored a third in stoppage time as Chelsea saw out the match to take a pivotal three points.
Following a first half of few chances, the match came alive after the interval with Chelsea breaching United’s defence for the first time this season on the hour mark.
United attempted to play out from the back but Millie Turner’s clearance was intercepted before Kerr toyed with Maya Le Tissier and then made no mistake following a fine finish.
Moments later, former United forward James doubled the visiting side’s advantage when she converted Kerr’s pass with a first-time strike.
Watching games at home with intermittent internet. I can’t cope. I’m so ready to go back to work but what a team, staff, players and fans we have. Everyone has been amazing. So so proud. And I can’t do this home watching for much longer. @chelseafcw I love you💙
— Emma Hayes OBE (@emmahayes1) November 6, 2022
United found a way back in the game with 19 minutes remaining after Russo benefitted from Cuthbert’s poor pass to slot home.
But Cuthbert atoned for her error when her deflected strike found the back of the next in the second minute of stoppage time to see the Blues take the win, and join Arsenal on 18 points at the summit, albeit with a poorer goal difference.
United slipped to third following their first defeat of the campaign.