CHELSEA 1 BARCELONA 1
An away goal two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game knocked Chelsea off the road to Rome on a night of many regrets.
The defeat over two legs, dealt by an Andrés Iniesta goal, came about despite a brilliant Michael Essien early opener.
It came about despite some rampaging Chelsea attacks. It came about despite clear cut chances in the face of superior Barcelona possession. It came about despite the away side suffering the traditional red card in these fixtures. And it came about despite more than one big penalty appeal.
Chelsea didn't play great football, but on the night we looked to have done well enough. The killer goal, when it came, was Barça's first true effort on target.
The 4-4-2 experiment used against Fulham was shelved tonight, Hiddink reverting to the formation that had earned the 0-0 draw in Spain.
However this time Bosingwa rather than Ivanovic was right back with Cole returning on the other flank. Anelka rather than Essien was wide right of the Chelsea midfield on this occasion with Mikel back on the bench.
Bosingwa's immediate task was to snuff out Iniesta rather than injured Henry - and with Yaya Touré the one asked to play stand in centre-back, it meant two new faces in midfield from the first leg - Busquets and Kieta joining Xavi and bringing height.
Barcelona, prepared to play it around in their own half from kick-off, were caught cold when Xavi slipped and Terry pounced to release Drogba, unmarked and onside. But the ball bounced off his standing leg and away. If only...!
Terry made a strong and successful challenge on Messi when he entered the Chelsea area for the first time, the Argentine beginning the game as the more central striker, Eto'o on the left where Henry might have been.
On five minutes Bosingwa hacked away from inside the six-yard area as a ball across took a freakish deflection and the Spaniards would have been pretty satisfied with their start.
But then on eight minutes, Drogba for the first time won an aerial contest deep in enemy territory and Chelsea could attack.
The ball soon came to Lampard inside the area and although his ball forward was blocked, up it popped perfectly for an Essien volley. From five yards outside the area the Ghanaian wellied it and in it flew, over Valdés and off the bottom of the crossbar.
The whole of west London must have heard the roar. The opening goal had come just a minute later than in the famous victory of 2005.
On 16 minutes the Blues pressed again. Malouda found Lampard but off-balance, he sliced well wide.
Barcelona had to wait for a 20th minute free-kick to try their luck but from 40 yards out and in the manner of another Brazilian full back, Roberto Carlos, Alves shot wastefully with Cech covering.
Two minutes later, Drogba was suddenly bearing down on goal as a long ball bounced invitingly ahead - but Valdés just won the race.
Earlier in the game Malouda won a debatable free-kick out of Alves (sweet justice after the first leg!), now he was awarded another free-kick when the foul could have been called inside the area. From close by the goal-line and away to left, Drogba did incredibly well to force a panicked save from the keeper with a blasted shot.
From the corner that followed, Terry's header dropped just a yard or two wide. Barça were wobbling - an impression confirmed when Lampard with relative ease put Drogba through. Our striker was again denied by Valdés and then went down under challenge from Touré - but the Norwegian ref was unmoved.
On 29 minutes Alves barged into Cole as the Chelsea man won a header and saw the first yellow card of the game. Not any old yellow though - one that will put the right-back out of the Final.
On 37 minutes Messi left Cole trailing for the first time but his ball in was a virtual back pass to Cech.
Heading towards the break, the Blues play became more broken and less ambitious as a spot of let's-make-it-half-time-ahead syndrome kicked in.
In that target, they were successful, even if it needed a block on a Xavi shot with two seconds remaining.
The second half began with one free-kick near the Chelsea area and two corners for Barça in the first five minutes - but the Blues stood strong.
Then on 52 minutes came the moment that looked for all the world a second Chelsea goal. Anelka burst onto a Malouda pass and feed a free Drogba. Cutting inside the closing defender, our number 11 shot low - but Valdés continued to stay on top in their personal duel by saving with an outstretched leg. In the follow up action, Malouda shot into the sidenetting.
Just three minutes later Drogba 'monstered' Touré as Lampard passed forward but into the area he was chopped by his countryman. Incredulous is one word to describe Didier's reaction when no penalty came - although replays suggested the defender might have got a block on the ball.
On 64 minutes there was a flash of Messi class to work a central striking chance but he fired over. A minute later he became one of a 10-man Barcelona side.
Drogba headed on to set Anelka away. Abidal was the chasing defender and just outside the area there was a tangle of feet and the Chelsea man tumbled.
His fellow France international had been the last man, decided the referee, and he roduced the red card.
Drogba had hurt his knee during his part in the incident, and after limping on for six minutes, was replaced with Belletti, although he clearly thought he could have gone on. Anelka went into the central striker role with the sub taking his place on the right.
Essien was booked for a foul on Iniesta before on 76 minutes, came the moment that would have denied Alex his place in Rome had there been a different ending. It was the Brazilian's initial mistake that had given Messi the ball and he can have little complaint about the yellow card for the foul that followed.
Anelka had a penalty shout turned down when Touré was caught the wrong side, as he had been frequently against Drogba, and two hit the ground.
If that wasn't clear cut, the same could not be said of the handball by Piqué in the area moments later. How that wasn't a pen only Tom Henning Ovrebo knows!
The Spaniards now looked all at sea at the back every time Chelsea advanced - but still that second goal would not come. Were we attempting to stretch them and go for the kill enough. Maybe not.
Messi went down as he darted for the area but the ref was as equally unmoved as moments before. Chelsea now had less than seven minutes to hold out.
Eto'o, who had been a near spectator, joined those in the book for dissent as stoppage time began.
Two minutes of that were played when Barcelona swung over a hopeful cross. Terry headed away but Essien slipped when he could have hacked well up field. Iniesta was fed and smashed an unstoppable shot past Cech.
The incident did not end there. Chelsea won a corner for which Cech advanced. His contact was away from goal but Ballack volleyed back, the ball hitting Eto'o high on the arm.
The penalty appeal was once again huge but the only result was a Ballack booking.
What happened at the final whistle was not good viewing with Drogba on the pitch to make his point to the officials with temper raised. He too saw yellow and may face further punishment yet as colleagues pushed him down the tunnel.
This may not have been the Champions League Final, but it will hurt just as much, and for just as long as the Moscow result last year.