Tevez was an inspiration to Manchester City as they scored twice in the final 12 minutes to move to within one point of Premier League leaders Manchester United, having played the same amount of games as their bitter rivals.
Elsewhere, Arsenal leapfrogged Tottenham into third place as Arsene Wenger's side won 1-0 at Everton, while their north London rivals were held to a 1-1 draw by Stoke.
QPR staged a sensational fightback to boost their survival hopes with three late goals in a 3-2 win against Liverpool.
At Eastlands. Tevez, who had fallen out with City boss Roberto Mancini over his refusal to warm-up during a Champions League tie at Bayern Munich in September, made his first appearance for nearly six months as a 66th minute replacement for Nigel de Jong.
Chelsea's Torres (L) vies with City's Tevez at their EPL game. Pic/AFP
Mancini sent the striker on with City trailing 1-0 to Gary Cahill's deflected 60th minute goal and it proved an inspired move as the hosts levelled in the 78th minute.
Tevez's compatriot Sergio Aguero stroked home a penalty after Michael Essien was penalised for handball.
It was Tevez who played the key role in Samir Nasri's 85th minute winner as the former Manchester United player slipped a perfectly-weighted pass through for the French midfielder to fire the winner that set a Premier League record for City's 20th successive home win.
That was Chelsea's first defeat under interim boss Roberto Di Matteo and it left the Blues five points behind Tottenham in the race for fourth place.
"I'm happy, because he (Tevez) did well," Mancini told Sky Sports. "Also he's not in good form, I don't think he's fit 100%, but that's football."
Meanwhile, Arsenal took full advantage of Tottenham's latest slip to move one point clear of Harry Redknapp's side.
Thomas Vermaelen got the only goal at Goodison Park in the eighth minute as he rose highest to head in Robin van Persie's corner.
There was controversy about the win however as Everton appeared to have equalised through Royston Drenthe, only for the Dutch midfielder's effort to be harshly ruled out for offside.
That was a significant blow for Spurs, who needed a stoppage time equaliser from Rafael van der Vaart to rescue a draw against Stoke.
Spurs were back at White Hart Lane just four days after the horrifying collapse of Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba during their abandoned FA Cup tie.
Both sets of players warmed up for the game and entered the field of play sporting T-shirts which read "Get well soon Fabrice" and there was a minute's applause before kick-off, both for Muamba and the medical staff who saved the 23-year-old's life.
Spurs struggled to find any momentum once the action started and fell behind in the 75th minute when Cameron Jerome poked home Robert Huth's header.
Van der Vaart's last-gasp headed equaliser at least stopped Spurs suffering a fourth successive defeat, but it was only a slender consolation.
At Loftus Road, QPR climbed out of the relegation zone in dramatic fashion with a sensational win over Liverpool.
Mark Hughes's side appeared destined for another dispiriting defeat when Sebastian Coates opened the scoring with a stunning 54th minute scissor-kick and Dirk Kuyt then increased Liverpool's lead in the 72nd minute.
But Shaun Derry gave QPR a glimmer of hope with a 77th minute header and former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse nodded in the 86th minute equaliser.
That set the stage for a dramatic finish as Jamie Mackie completed the comeback with a cool stoppage-time winner.