On a pitch resembling Copacabana beach, Chelsea produced a performance to match with their touch of Brazilian flair overwhelming Charlton 4-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Despite the appalling surface, the Blues, who had taken just one point from their three previous league games, wasted no time in relaunching their Premiership campaign in some style.
They seized the lead after just two minutes through Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's contentious penalty, the day after Claudio Ranieri had effectively admitted his forward was for sale at the right price.
And with further strikes by William Gallas and Eidur Gudjohnsen, they were out of sight well before half-time. Although Charlton pulled a goal back through their own spot-kick, an appalling blunder by keeper Dean Kiely allowed Graeme Le Saux to put Chelsea 4-1 ahead on 54 minutes.
Other chances came and went but their most convincing win of the season still ensured a measure of revenge after Charlton had completed the double over them in the past two seasons.
Ranieri's side, who also triumphed at The Valley in August in a late comeback, still benefited from a controversial ruling by Mike Dean less than two minutes into this game.
A neat flick by Gudjohnsen set up Le Saux to cross but any contact that Chris Powell then made with Hasselbaink as they went for the ball together was at best minimal.
Referee Dean nevertheless pointed straight to the spot - when he could find it, that is - and Hasselbaink sanded himself down before sending Kiely the wrong way.
It was clearly not Powell's day. For he had little time to recover before playing an unwitting role in Chelsea's second goal with just 10 minutes gone.
Jesper Gronkjaer's through-ball looked harmless enough until Powell miskicked his clearance and Gallas took full advantage as he volleyed the loose ball into the far corner of the net.
Despite the appalling conditions, Chelsea were still managing to play one-touch passing game that gave them the edge and Le Saux flashed another shot just wide.
Charlton, meanwhile, were rather less dangerous up front and they still struggled to make an impact even though Emmanuel Petit was drafted back into defence as John Terry went off injured.
Euell wasted three openings, including an indirect free-kick near the penalty spot, and Chelsea's response was as effective as it was simple.
In a classic counter-attack, Gronkjaer went past Powell and crossed towards Gudjohnsen at the far post for him to deliver a shot which deflected off Luke Young and duly evaded Kiely at his near post.
There was some relief for the visitors five minutes before the break when they earned their own dubious penalty after Petit had conceded possession on the edge of his box.
Marcel Desailly was adjudged, possibly harshly, to have fouled Kevin Lisbie and Euell this time held his nerve to beat Cudicini from the spot.
Alan Curbishley boldly made a double change at the interval, with strikers Kevin Bartlett and Jonatan Johansson replacing midfielder Radostin Kishishev and full-back Powell.
However, amid a feisty start to the second half, it was still Chelsea who continued to threaten.
Le Saux's free-kick almost managed to lob Kiely, but the Charlton keeper recovered his ground to tip the ball over the bar.
Kiely was nevertheless left red-faced when his awful mistake allowed Le Saux's speculative long-range shot to slip through his grasp and sneak inside the far post.
Hasselbaink came desperately close to putting Chelsea further ahead when he struck the inside of the post and despite moving to a back three, Charlton were still under pressure.
That they survived without going even further behind was more down to luck than judgment as their superb run of eight league games without defeat came unceremoniously to an end. Chelsea, in turn, moved back to five points behind Arsenal.
The pitch, meanwhile, will now be relaid although, on this display, maybe the Blues have mastered their own brand of beach football.
After the match striker Eidur Gudjohnsen confirmed he was happy at Chelsea despite being linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge earlier this season as he struggled to win a place in the side.
The rumours have still not stopped and while the Icelandic international
admits he would consider any offer that the club accepts, he insists that he is
content at Chelsea.
'I have a contract with Chelsea and if the club accept an offer for me then
I'll think about it. Otherwise I'm staying here and I'm happy to do so,' he
'When you're not playing, you try to keep a smile on your face. When you are
playing though and getting goals, it's a little bit easier. I go into training
with a smile on my face every day.
'Especially early in the season, I found it hard not playing regularly
though. After having a good season last time but then getting injured, it played
a lot on my mind.
'It's been really hard but, on the other hand, you have to try and get your
act together and work as hard as you can to get yourself back into the team.'
Gudjohnsen's strike put Chelsea 3-0 up before half-time as he added to a
controversial early penalty by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and a strike by William
'I was pleased to get a goal. I had struggled to get into the team earlier
this season but that was all credit to Franco Zola,' he added.
'Everyone knows that I like playing up front with Jimmy but, more than that,
I just like playing.'
Although Charlton pulled a goal back with their own spot-kick by Jason Euell,
an awful blunder by keeper Dean Kiely allowed Graeme Le Saux to put Chelsea 4-1
ahead despite an appalling pitch.
'Pitch, or did you said beach?' joked Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri ahead of
the surface being relaid next week.
'We started very well and I was very pleased with our performance. It was
important for Jimmy to score goalscorers need to find the net.'
While Ranieri will have to check on John Terry's fitness due to a back
complaint, Charlton boss Alan Curbishley was left to reflect on the end of his
side's eight-match unbeaten league run.
Curbishley, who was upset about a tackle by Graeme Le Saux that left Scott
Parker needing a couple of stitches, had no complaints at the result despite
reservations about Chelsea's early penalty.
'Chris Powell said that he didn't think he touched Hasselbaink and I
certainly thought it was very harsh,' he said.
'But if you let in two goals in the first 10 minutes against a top-four side,
then it's very difficult to recover. Chelsea have a bit of steely determination
about them this season.
'We've had a great run and if it's all going to happen then it's probably
best for it all to happen at once, like the fourth goal, which was completely
out of character for Dean.
'I'm very disappointed though and we've let down our fans so we will do
everything to put it right next week.'