Three players were sent off as Chelsea came from behind to win the Carling Cup for the second time in three years with a 2-1 win over Arsenal - but skipper John Terry was not around to lift the trophy after being taken to hospital following a sickening kick in the head.
In front of watching England boss Steve McClaren, Terry was knocked out cold as he took the full force of Abou Diaby's boot in the face as the pair challenged for a loose ball in the Arsenal box just before the hour mark.
Terry swallowed his tongue during the drama, which left Diaby in tears, before he was eventually carried off on a stretcher with an oxygen mask helping his breathing.
Although he was revived before leaving the Millennium Stadium, Terry will now undergo extensive tests before being allowed to play again.
The injury overshadowed an amazing game, in which Didier Drogba plundered his 27th and 28th goals of the season after Theo Walcott had put Arsenal ahead, but ended in the sourest manner imaginable with a mass brawl which Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger tried to break up.
Mikel Jon Obi and Kolo Toure reacted to their punishment by simply removing their shirts. Emmanuel Adebayor was less gracious and had to be hauled off as he continued to vent his fury at referee Howard Webb.
With Frank Lampard and Cesc Fabregas also booked, the Football Association are sure to launch an investigation at some point in the next 48 hours.
Certainly, there was no shortage of incident for sponsors Carling to bother about. And any suggestion Wenger devalued their competition by fielding his youngsters can be rejected too.
In fact, to see Arsenal's kids buzzing around the Millennium Stadium with no sign of big-match nerves was a total joy.
In Abou Diaby and Fabregas, the Gunners boast a pair of fresh-faced midfielders capable of carrying them to glory for the next decade and their speed and movement was initially too much for a Chelsea outfit, whose experience was about the only thing that kept them in the game.
The other major gripe at Wenger is his failure to develop Englishmen.
Having lured Walcott from Southampton for #12million, no-one could argue the Arsenal academy was actually responsible for bringing through the 17-year-old.
But, when he told Sven-Goran Eriksson to take a gamble on the teenager at last summer's World Cup, Wenger clearly knew what he was talking about.
Eriksson's refusal to call on Walcott as England slithered out of Germany has left a stain on the player's career that will be difficult to remove.
But the task has begun now after he chose the perfect setting to score his first Arsenal goal.
He did all the hard work himself too, shuttling back to pick up the loose ball after Chelsea had half-cleared a corner. Walcott then continued his run after laying off a pass to Diaby, collected the return and skipped past an otherwise immaculate Ricardo Carvalho before delivering a precise finish.
Rarely since Mourinho arrived at Stamford Bridge have Chelsea been subjected to such torture. But what they lack in flair, the Blues make up for in efficiency.
Drogba should have been flagged offside when he collected Michael Ballack's astute chipped pass. But once he had gained the benefit of the decision, the striker never looked likely to fail and assuredly smashed home his 28th goal of an incredible season.
Drogba's efforts should have given Chelsea the platform to assert their authority. Instead, the plucky Arsenal lads refused to buckle and contributed fully to a sustained period of committed cut and thrust, which came to an abrupt end with Terry's sickening injury.
For five minutes, the Chelsea medical staff attended to their captain, whose bravery was exemplified by his willingness to play in Cardiff despite suffering a serious ankle injury in Porto on Wednesday.
Arsenal and England physio Gary Lewin was also on the scene.
Understandably, the game lost its spark for a while afterwards. It took Frank Lampard's thunderous 25-yard strike to bring it back to life, the England midfielder shaking the crossbar with Manuel Almunia beaten.
With young legs starting to tire, from then on it seemed just a matter of when, not if, Chelsea would get their winner.
And, when Arjen Robben drifted over a cross from the left, there was little surprise either that Drogba should be the man who muscled his way in front of Philippe Senderos and glanced the decisive header into the bottom corner.
Arsenal had seven minutes' worth of injury time to try to fashion an equaliser.
Instead, all a capacity crowd got was a ugly 14-man brawl, which brought both managers onto the pitch and left referee Howard Webb in an unenviable position, which he eventually resolved by brandishing three red cards.
Chelsea hero Didier Drogba admitted he had mixed emotions after an incident-packed Carling Cup final in which his goals secured a 2-1 win over Arsenal, skipper John Terry was taken to hospital with a head injury and three players were sent off.
Drogba cancelled out Theo Walcott's opener for the Gunners and, after the
Blues lost Terry to an accidental kick on the head from Abou Diaby, he headed
home Arjen Robben's cross to claim the first trophy of the season.
The drama did not end there with referee Howard Webb dismissing Chelsea's
Mikel Jon Obi and Arsenal's Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor following an
'Today is strange,' Drogba told Sky Sports. 'We won and we're happy because
we've got the cup but we are also scared because we don't know what to expect
when we saw JT on the floor.
'I think more about JT than the cup.
'It is difficult because he was one metre away from me (when it happened).
'We saw his character and this is why he is our captain and why he is the
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech suffered a fractured skull earlier this season at
But he said of Terry's injury: 'I think it's one of the worst moments I have
experienced on the pitch because I can't remember my injury!
'But you saw the reaction of the players. For the first three or four minutes
after the injury, I had other emotions.
'I hope he will be all right. I hope it's the last injury he has.'
There was still over half an hour to play after Terry went off.
Cech said: 'There were still a lot of minutes to play. It's
always a big blow when you see an injury like this, but we wanted to win the
Now the Blues will turn their attention to retaining their Premiership title, while they remain in contention for the FA Cup and Champions
On the prospect of a clean sweep, Cech said: 'I hope so. There are another
three competitions we are involved in - we will try to do our best.'
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho paid tribute to Arsenal's young players.
'They played a very good game in my opinion,' he told Sky Sports. 'They
beat Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham with this team.
'In the second half it was completely different, we dominated the game and at
the end of the day we deserved the victory.'
Three red cards marred the end of the match, and he added: 'The pity was what
happened in the final (minutes). I don't know what happened but it was not
'A special word for them - they played very good.
'They are a great coach, great players - but football is about winning and
the cup goes to us.'
Chelsea vice-captain Frank Lampard, who lifted the trophy in the absence of
Terry, said: 'As soon as JT went down I could see it in his face (that it was
'That (winning the cup) was for John going off like that.'
Asked if the players would get the trophy to Terry in hospital as soon as
possible, Lampard replied: 'If it's possible, of course we will because we are
Lampard admitted that it had been a disappointing end to the final when both
sets of players became embroiled in an unseemly brawl sparked by a challenge
from Mikel on Toure.
'I wasn't involved in the first incident but then some of their players got
upset. I came in trying to sort it out and then got involved in it.
'It's disappointing for a final but it just shows how much people want to win
Lampard admitted Arsenal had started very strongly and deserved their early
lead but Chelsea weathered the storm.
'We didn't have too much of the game,' said Lampard, 'but we just needed to
win the game and we have.
'Didier is the best in the world at the moment. He is doing it week-in,
week-out for us.'