Chelsea always seems to find a way in the Champions League and Victor Moses was the hero as he headed a last minute winner against Shakhtar Donetsk to leave the defending champion joint top of Group E.
The substitute rose high in the last minute of added time to head home Juan Mata’s corner after a thrilling encounter in which the Blues twice took the lead but made poor defensive errors as they were pegged back by the swift attacking movement of the Ukrainian champion.
Shakhtar playmaker Willian - a transfer target for Chelsea and Tottenham - twice equalized for the visitors to cancel out Fernando Torres’ sixth minute goal and a wonderful 45-yard strike from Oscar.
But Moses had the last say with a goal that leaves Chelsea alongside Shakhtar on seven points, a step closer to the promised land with two games to play, at home to Nordsjaelland and away to Juventus as it looks to progress to the knockout stages.
It was a victory Chelsea did not deserve against a lively, creative Shakhtar side that continually took advantage of the hosts’ sloppy defending, which will prompt questions over whether manager Roberto Di Mattero should have recalled captain John Terry to the side. The Italian cited the defender’s lack of match sharpness following his racism ban for the decision to start with Gary Cahill and David Luiz as the hosts’ central defensive pairing.
Shakhtar named the same side that won the reverse fixture 2-1 last month and the game burst into life from virtually the first kick, with both teams mixing swift attacking play with almost comical defending.
Given the rarity of goals for Torres in his Chelsea career, the Spaniard would have been more than grateful for the gift that opened the scoring in the sixth minute.
Shakhtar goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov received a routine backpass from Yaroslav Rakitiskiy, but Torres read the clearance and opportunistically stuck out a leg for the ball to ricochet straight into the back of the net.
Three minutes later, however, the Ukrainian visitors were level as Willian - a transfer target for Chelsea and Tottenham - scored his first of the night. Fernandinho burst past Chelsea defenders into the right side of the penalty area and cut the ball back for his fellow Brazilian to slot through a crowd of bodies, with Petr Cech diving the wrong way.
The game then settled down but never lost its ebb and flow as both sides continually created chances. Torres could only find the side netting from a tight angle before Alex Teixeira zipped an effort just wide of the post following a flowing Shakhtar move.
Five minutes before the break, Chelsea once again took the lead thanks to a wonderful strike from Oscar and another woeful clearance by Pyatov.
The Shakhtar goalkeeper rushed off his line to clear Juan Mata’s through ball with his head, only for the ball to fall to Oscar. The Brazilian playmaker still had so much to do but he made it look effortless, controlling with his chest before pinging his finish into an empty net from 45 yards.
The fluid, end-to-end pattern continued after the break and Willian again leveled the score in the 47th minute as he poked in Dario Srna’s cross to finish a wonderful Shakhtar move.
The Ukrainian champion - which came into the game having won 17 out of 18 fixtures in all competitions this season - nearly took the lead seven minutes later but Razvan Rat saw his swerving strike from 30 yards rattle the post.
At the other end, Chelsea had a huge shout for a penalty when Ramires appeared to be brought down in the area by Srna as he shaped to shoot, only for referee Carlos Velasco Carballo to wave away the appeals to the home players’ astonishment.
Then, with the last touch of added time, Moses rose in the box to head home Mata’s corner to send Stamford Bridge into delirium.