Diego Forlan struck lucky seven as he steered Manchester United into the Worthington Cup semi-finals for the first time in eight years following a 1-0 win over Chelsea.
The £7million Uruguyan, branded a mis-fit earlier in the campaign after his abject failures in front of goal, has transformed himself into a proven match winner, finishing off Chelsea at Old Trafford with the same clinical accuracy which defeated Liverpool last month.
His late low shot, which flashed under Carlo Cudicini's body 10 minutes from time, sealed a pulsating contest in which the imagination of two illustrious attacks was matched only by the solidity of the defences, in particular Mikael Silvestre and William Gallas.
The French pair performed to such a high standard that a seemingly inevitable goalless draw would have done mighty justice to their efforts.
But Forlan had other ideas and rattled home David Beckham's pass - his seventh goal of the campaign - to set up a two-legged semi-final appearance and a most unlikely opportunity to reach the Millennium Stadium.
A couple of seasons ago, a Worthington Cup meeting between this pair would have resembled a youth team encounter, particularly given the serious nature of the duo's Premiership push.
However, a revision of thinking seems to have taken place.
While Ruud van Nistelrooy was given a welcome rest, Beckham, Juan Veron and Fabien Barthez were among the United starters, while visitors' boss Claudio Ranieri kept his pledge to field a full strength side.
The result was a slick encounter, full of fizzing first-time passes which would have ripped lesser defences to shreds.
Fortunately, the rearguards on show are two of the strongest in the domestic game, so the deadlock had still not been broken by the interval.
There were at least half a dozen decent chances to open the scoring but two fine curling Paul Scholes shots brought no reward, while Enrique de Lucas wasted the Londoners' best opportunity when he fired Jody Morris' far post cross wide from a position of immense promise.
As befitting a man with the confidence of a new four-year contract in his back pocket, Silvestre was in good form at the heart of United's back four, fellow countryman Barthez also impressing with a couple of good saves, even if his failure to collect a Gianfranco Zola corner forced Phil Neville to hack clear inside his own six-yard area.
Continuing the French flavour, Gallas also provided a moment of defensive inspiration when his captain, John Terry, produced the only potentially catastrophic blunder of the half when he allowed himself to be robbed by Forlan, leading the United forward line in van Nistelrooy's absence.
Presented with a two-on-one situation, Forlan's first instinct was to turn the ball in the path of the better-placed Scholes.
Gallas had already worked that one out though and blocked the path before closing down on the Uruguayan and then robbing him completely when Forlan attempted to turn inside.
Mario Melchiot was equally impressive in racing back to hook a Ryan Giggs lob clear after Cudicini had raced out of his area without reaching a bouncing punt forward.
Neville and Terry were both cautioned for crunching tackles on Mario Stanic and Forlan respectively which illustrated a keen desire for victory, only reinforced by Stanic's crude lunge on Beckham which launched the second period with another yellow card.
The pattern of the first half continued, with defenders tending to shine, Gallas again matching Forlan for pace before muscling the United striker off the ball when set for a run on goal.
At the other end, Silvestre atoned for Giggs' mis-placed pass with a perfectly-timed sliding tackle on de Lucas before central defensive partner Wes Brown did well to hold off Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink when the Dutchman had the glint of goal in his eye.
Chelsea were pressing with increasing confidence, forcing United into some desperate defending, Gary Neville flying out to block Frank Lampard's goal-bound effort before Brown produced a superbly-timed tackle inside his own area with Zola threatening to burst clean through.
With Giggs having one of his more sporadic nights, Forlan was left exposed up front and the visitors were able to collect most of the home clearances and plunge the ball straight back into enemy territory.
But, after reviving his United career from a position of such uncertainty, the Uruguayan was not about to give up on another seemingly lost cause.
When Beckham took possession he drifted into space then finished off with a ruthlessness barely imaginable just two months ago.
Chelsea forced themselves forward looking for an equaliser but it was Forlan who wasted the final chance, firing wide from a Beckham cut back, although a second would have been an injustice to the visitors' fine efforts.