In the end, there were almost too many storylines to choose from. In a game that truly had it all, Chelsea somehow found a way to upset Barcelona and clinch a place in the Champions League final.
All the intensity – from the moment of madness that saw Chelsea captain John Terry sent off for lashing out at an opponent to the English side's remarkable effort with 10 men.
All the drama – from an epic choke from the best player in the world to the shocking reality that Barcelona's season is effectively over.
And all the tension – from the two occasions when only the woodwork and fortune could keep Barca at bay to the dramatic finale when Fernando Torres repaid his record price tag with one flick of his right foot.
Barca was left stunned by this, scarcely able to fathom the hand fate had dealt them. Messi, so often the architect of others' heartache, was the victim himself this time, burying his head in his shirt at the end in the knowledge he had underperformed when it mattered most.
The Spanish club, defending champions, could barely have imagined a scenario where they allowed themselves to be denied at their own fortress of the Camp Nou, by a shorthanded opponent no less. But denied they were, by a Chelsea team that simply refused to die and clinched a 2-2 draw in this semifinal second leg to advance to the final through 3-2 on aggregate.
When Terry was red-carded for the idiotic decision to knee Alexis Sanchez in the back of the leg late in the first half, Chelsea, already behind 1-0 thanks to Sergio Busquets' opener, seemed doomed. That likelihood apparently turned into a certainty minutes later as Andres Iniesta added another and sent the Camp Nou rocking.
However, a brilliant chip from Brazil's Ramires just before the break gave Chelsea a lifeline, even if would mean hanging on grimly for an entire half. Yet that is what they managed, repelling wave after wave of Barcelona attacks that became increasingly frantic.
[ Related: Chelsea captain Terry sent off for kneeing foe ]
In an encounter with as many twists as this, there was never going to be a single turning point, but the closest came with the unthinkable sight of the mercurial Messi blasting a 49th-minute penalty kick against the crossbar.
Suddenly doubt started creeping into the minds of the little man, his colleagues and a crowd so desperate to see their side progress to within one win of a fourth Champions League title in seven years.
Barcelona had been denied twice by the frame of the goal in its 1-0 defeat in the first leg of this home-and-home series, and its cruel luck would continue, as Messi cut inside and drilled a low shot that Petr Cech diverted just enough to push it onto the post.
There is no question though, that Chelsea deserved its victory. All the spirit missing under former coach Andre Villas Boas has flooded back under interim coach Roberto Di Matteo, but this effort was above and beyond. It might not have been pretty, but there may be no way to beat Barca other than to defend in numbers, even more so after Terry's ejection.
As well as Terry's folly that earned him a straight red card, the visitors had to make do without its other central defender, Gary Cahill, who limped off in the first half after pulling a hamstring. A shake-up followed, with Chelsea using a pair of natural right backs – Branislav Ivanovic and Jose Bosignwa – to combat the talents of Messi and Co. in the middle.
[ Slideshow: Relive Chelsea's upset of Barcelona ]
Yet combat it they did, with every Chelsea player being called upon for defensive duties, even striker Didier Drogba and his late replacement Torres.
"Everyone knew we had to fight and it got even more difficult with 10 men," said Cech, whose efforts in both matches against Barca should have silenced any speculation that he may be allowed to leave in the summer. "You can't afford to lose concentration for a second, you have to stay together as a team, you have to never lose hope and belief. That is what we did. Everyone did their job, we got a little bit of luck and this is an amazing night."
As time wore thin, it was Torres' fresh legs, plus the fact that every Barca player had piled forward, that allowed him to sprint onto a hasty clearance from Ashley Cole, skip around goalkeeper Victor Valdes, and slide home the goal to put the clash beyond doubt.
Torres' performances following his $79.5 million move from Liverpool 18 months ago have been bad enough for him to be dumped from both the Spain national squad and the Chelsea first team, and although this was one of the simplest goals he will score, it may prove to be the most valuable. Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich must surely think so, with this being the trophy he craves more than any other.
Winning the final will be another uphill task, against the winner of Wednesday's other semi between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, with the Germans nursing a one-goal lead from the first leg. Terry, who came within the width of the post of giving Chelsea the trophy during a penalty shootout in the 2008 final, will now be among four suspended players to miss the final May 19.
It makes the job at hand that much more difficult, but Tuesday showed that for Chelsea, nothing is impossible.
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