t was going to be hard for anything on the pitch to live up to the off-field ructions caused by Roman Abramovich before this FA Cup fifth round tie.
But Luton Town did their best to focus minds back on football by coming so close to inflicting a famous upset on Chelsea.
Leading twice, the Championship side gave the European champions an almighty fright.
In the end it took more than £140million-worth of Abramovich signings secure Thomas Tuchel’s side a place in the quarter-finals, with Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku completing a second-half comeback.
Kenilworth Road is a reminder of football before the Premier League. Football before billionaire or state-sponsored ownership.
And the old ground rocked as Luton revelled in bringing Chelsea down to earth.
The home crowd zealously taunted the visiting fans with chants of: “You’re getting sold in the morning” following Abramovich’s announcement that he plans to offload the club after 19 years of ownership.
It is hard to imagine the oligarch’s statement – particularly the timing of it, shortly before kick-off – cannot have had an effect on the players.
Perhaps it was a heady cocktail of distracted minds and the hot reception from Luton that so nearly created the perfect storm.
If Abramovich’s announcement came as a shock – so did Luton’s opening goal after just two minutes through a Reece Burke header.
Chelsea – much-changed after Tuchel feared overload following Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final – were rattled by their opponents’ sharp passing and pace.
Even after equalising through Saul Niguez in the first half, they still looked vulnerable on the break.
And Harry Cornick made it 2-1 shortly before half time, it was the least Luton deserved for their fearless approach.
But quality ultimately told, with £45million Werner and £97.5m Lukaku proving the difference.
Chelsea avoid a scare – and for the fans in the stadium it would have been impossible to ignore the symbolism of being brought down to earth on the night their very future was thrown into such uncertainty.
They were stunned when Burke rose to meet Luke Berry’s corner after two minutes to glance his header into the far corner
The home crowd erupted.
An innocuous injury saw Luton goalkeeper Jed Steer forced off after 14 minutes, to be replaced by Harry Isted.
But Luton could have doubled their lead when Dan Potts headed goalwards from six yards out – only to see his effort go straight at Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea equalised almost immediately after that when capitalising on a loose pass from Gabe Osho.
Callum Hudson-Odoi seized on it and played in Werner.
The German could not get a shot off, but when the ball broke for Saul on the edge of the area, the Spaniard swept a shot low into the corner to level the score on 27 minutes.
Kenedy and Lukaku both forced Isted into action as Chelsea looked to take control, but it was Luton took the lead again just before the break.
A well-worked move saw Carlos Gomez release Cornick, who had the beating of Malang Sarr on foot.
As he raced clear, he still had Kepa to beat, but coolly slid his shot past the advancing keeper. The longer the game went on, the more Luton believed they could cause an upset.
Chelsea struggled to create clear-cut chances and were increasingly frustrated as their possession produced little.
But they equalised for a second time when Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s lofted ball found Werner in the box.
He controlled well and tucked his shot away in the 68th minute.
They were in front for the first time in the match 10 minutes later.
Again Loftus-Cheek was instrumental when splitting the Luton defence to find Werner’s run. The German then looked up to cross to Lukaku, who slid home to ensure the shocks were limited to the boardroom.