Incredible, amazing stuff. Goals galore, one hell of a game, a blistering, enthralling finale.
Alas, the rest was the same old story.
Sunderland lost. Sunderland are bottom, still, of the Premier League.
They actually started last night’s clash on top, and led through Jozy Altidore.
But an Eden Hazard masterclass soon did for them, put Chelsea in control and though they teetered, though the Black Cats launched an admirable late salvo, they never truly looked likely to relinquish victory.
The Blues’ Belgian made Frank Lampard’s equaliser and scored his side’s next two.
And though John O’Shea levelled again after half-time and Phil Bardsley forced a late, late consolation goal, it was only that because the same player had moments earlier scored past his own goalkeeper, Vito Mannone.
At least pushing a side second in the table so close was something, something for Gus Poyet to take from his first encounter as a fully-fledged manager against his old club.
There was the real consolation.
In front of Ellis Short, Sunderland enjoyed some pleasant-looking patches, created openings, showed spirit.
They looked up for it, from the very beginning too.
Inside a minute Emanuele Giaccherini had a shot blocked by Cesar Azpilicueta, and seconds later Fabio Borini switched flanks to drag an effort across the face of goal, from right to left.
It was pugnacious stuff, but not without a platform.
Chelsea’s phalanx of diminutive hole-teasers were not long in beginning to pick at Sunderland’s seam.
Yet with home shirts vastly and rapidly closing ranks, and space, every time the ball neared their box, the visitors found their early efforts reduced to pot-shots by Hazard and Lampard.
By the 14th minute, they found themselves reduced to a goal in arrears.
Azpilicueta was late on Altidore, just outside the area.
Andrea Dossena’s free-kick struck the wall but was fed back into the box by Jack Colback, leaving Altidore to take a touch, hold off John Terry, who had played him onside, spin and slam a left-foot strike beyond Petr Cech.
The camera cut to Poyet, unmoved in his seat. He knows how such things go.
And sure enough, within three minutes his old club were level.
First, John O’Shea – who shrugged off a groin problem to play – cut out Juan Mata’s tightly-angled, close-range effort.
But when the resulting corner was only half-cleared, Hazard danced down the left and crossed for Lampard to glance a header in from near-enough under the crossbar. That appeared to becalm the Blues, but it did not quell Sunderland.
They admirably kept playing, kept passing, into tight areas too. That much is about trust, and confidence.
It brought them the game’s next opening too, when Cech was forced to palm Dossena’s left-foot half-volley around the post. Later, Wes Brown’s shot was blocked by Gary Cahill, following a corner.
But soon enough, their pluck and resistance wavered, and Chelsea’s class told.
After Fernando Torres somehow contrived to blast Mata’s cross over on 33 minutes, three minutes later Hazard advanced down the left and while previously met with massed defence, the Belgian all too easily cut inside Phil Bardsley and Craig Gardner, and fired, low and right-footed, inside Vito Mannone’s far post.
By half-time the Black Cats goalkeeper was forced into turning another Hazard effort, again low and from the left, behind, and by then, the interval appealed as a welcome sanctuary.
It worked too, but not for long.
Five minutes after the restart, Giaccherini’s right-wing corner was helped on by Bardsley. Brown ventured a swing and a miss, but O’Shea connected better, and his eight-yard shot was deflected in off Terry.
Back came Chelsea though.
On 57 minutes, Mannone pushed away a forceful, 20-yard drive by Hazard and Torres pushed the rebound high into the stand.
But five minutes later, Hazard once again probed down the left.
This time, Bardsley and Gardner doubled up tightly on the Belgium international.
He evaded that attention trading a one-two with Lampard, who backheeled his return, leaving Hazard to step inside O’Shea and fire a rising effort into the net.
Who needs strikers, with players like that?
No Chelsea forward has scored a league goal away from Stamford Bridge this calendar year, so it was hardly surprising that before long Torres, who had endured a frustrating evening, was replaced by Demba Ba.
The former Newcastle United striker took the field to a chorus of boos, but within minutes had almost extended his side’s lead. On 72 minutes a close-range effort was deflected behind by O’Shea; two minutes later he ran at goal and dispatched a 20-yard shot that curled wide.
In between time, Willian blasted behind from wide on the right, and by now the Black Cats were reduced, twice, to speculative appeals for penalties.
In the 78th minute, Ba followed the Torres route to goal. By lofting high into the stand.
A left-foot Lampard effort was blocked by Ki Sung Yueng and Ramires exploded down the inside-right flank and saw his low cross-shot just dart beyond the far upright.
With 10 minutes to go, the talismanic Steven Fletcher entered proceedings and, lifting his side by mere presence, Sunderland twice went close.
Cech was forced to punch clear a dangerous cross under intense pressure, before Ki shot high and wide.
But any hope of a final fightback, of redemption, looked long-gone on 84 minutes.
Ba sped up the right wing with only Ramires in support. He didn’t need him. Sliding in to intercept Ba’s low cross, Bardsley succeeded only in turning the ball into his own net.
Yet even then there was more, there was redemption, of a sort.
From an 86th-minute corner, Fletcher helped on and Bardsley, by sheer force of will, stabbed in.
So, yes, redemption. But defeat too.