Chelsea FC secured their fourth UEFA Champions League semi-final berth in five seasons thanks to another of Michael Ballack's early goals and then Frank Lampard's nerve-settling second with three minutes remaining against Fenerbahçe SK.
Their progression to another last-four meeting with Liverpool FC was achieved moreover with their third-choice goalkeeper on the pitch after Hilário came on for Carlo Cudicini, already deputising for Petr Čech, with 26 minutes played. The replacement responded superbly as the Turkish title-holders, never before European semi-finalists, piled on the pressure until Lampard's coup de grâce.
Ballack heads in
Ballack had been dismissive of the notion that Chelsea could make anywhere near as dynamic a start as they enjoyed against Olympiacos CFP when he nodded in a Lampard cross on five minutes. He underestimated his team's capabilities; this time the clock showed only four minutes as he glanced home Lampard's free-kick with aplomb before wheeling away in triumph.
Cole hits post
It was just the beginning the Londoners wanted and it almost became two as Salomon Kalou set off on a powerful run down the left, angling the ball back for Joe Cole who improvised to stunning effect, stretching out a foot to prod the ball against the post. Avram Grant's Chelsea were buoyant while Fenerbahçe were rocking. Their priority in the short term was not to concede another but they were on the rack and it was fortunate that Edu read the danger signs when Ballack attempted to play in Didier Drogba.
When allowed the ball, the visitors from Istanbul showed some neat touches but these were only brief interludes in a tidal wave of early Chelsea pressure. However, they could take encouragement from the sight of Cudicini hobbling out of the action midway through the half, seemingly after a muscle pull. That brought understudy Hilário on to the field and he was immediately tested by a long-range drive from Semih Şentürk, preferred up front to ex-Chelsea forward Mateja Kežman. Then, from Alex's free-kick, Lugano rose highest and unchallenged but could not place his header on target.
In a similar right-back role to last week, Michael Essien was again able to push forward and created a number of chances. At the start of the second period he drilled a ball into Drogba who turned swiftly but shot straight at Volkan Demirel. The goalkeeper left his line to chase Kalou for a ball Joe Cole struck just too hard for his colleague and was fortunate that Lugano helped him crowd out the Chelsea forward.
That was followed by a neat Drogba-Ballack combination which so nearly put the German player in. A second Chelsea goal looked likely yet until it arrived Fenerbahçe lived in hope and the Stamford Bridge fans remained anxious even though Hilário had still to be seriously tested with an hour gone. Fenerbahçe coach Zico sent on Kežman as his side sought with added urgency the goal that would put them through.
Chelsea endured some shaky moments and Hilário scrambled to push away's Gökhan Gönül's deflected volley. He then parried a fierce strike from Kazım Kazım before Essien, who will be suspended for the first leg against Liverpool at Anfield, ended a persistent run with a low cross and Lampard tapped in.