London derbies are typically the show piece of any Premier League highlight real, but when Chelsea took on Tottenham Hotspurs at Wembley Stadium for a place in the FA Cup final, the bragging rights for control over the capital city had reached fever pitch.
Antonio Conte had captivated the country during his maiden spell in England as the Blues climbed to the summit of the league, closely entailed by Mauricio Pochettino and his sparkling Spurs side, who were within four points off their arch rivals before the cup clash.
Both had beaten one another previously in the campaign, Chelsea 2-1 victors at Stamford Bridge in November, before suffering a 2-0 defeat at White Hart Lane three months down the line. Now on partly neutral ground, all attention turned to the battle of the bitter enemies.
Team selection question
Partly being the operative word, as Spurs would be making Wembley their temporary home for the following campaign whilst the Lane went under reconstruction.
It was not only the stadium that was undergoing reformation, both managers opted for a reshuffle of their squads to ensure a fresh set of for the returning intense title race.
Conte's front three raised many an eyebrow, dropping the enigmatic duo of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for Willian and the mediocre Michy Batshuayi. At the opposite end, Nathan Ake made a rare appearance in place for the injured Gary Cahill.
Poch opted for Kieran Trippier and Victor Wanyama instead of Kyle Walker and Ben Davies, Spurs most startling alteration was the deployment of South Korean Son Heung Min as left-wing back.
Chelsea's changes came as a consequence of the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United six days prior, their opponents offered more room for optimism following a 4-0 thrashing of Bournemouth on the simultaneous weekend.
Willian wows in hectic half
Very few can emulate the brilliance of Chelsea's no.10, yet Willian ensured his manager a selection headache for the final following his fine contribution during the first half.
After Toby Alderweireld brought down the pacey Pedro outside his penalty area, two Brazilians stationed themselves in position to strike. David Luiz had a decent dead ball track record, but it was Willian who bent the freekick fabulously into Hugo Lloris' far corner for an epic opener.
Spurs struck back moments later, Christian Eriksen cross locating the head of Harry Kane, delicately flicking his effort past Thibaut Courtois to level proceedings.
But it was advantage Blues once more with the opening 45 coming to a close. Victor Moses strode past Son, who was in his unfamiliar defence position, making a clumsy attempt at a sliding challenge to bring the Nigerian down inside the area, with referee Martin Atkinson pointing to the penalty spot. Willian dispatched again to send Conte's men in charge at the break.
Here comes Hazard
Spurs were not settling for the score line and came out of the blocks in blistering fashion. Eriksen delightfully picked out Dele Ali with a dangerous ball in behind the Chelsea defence, putting it on a plate for his team mate to smash home Spurs' second equaliser of the tie.
This caused Conte to react, turning to his weapons of massive destruction, pushing the red button by releasing Costa and Hazard onto Wembley’s hallowed turf.
Within 15 minutes of the pairs introduction, the Blues were back in front thanks to their talismanic Belgian superstar. Collecting a headed clearance on the edge of the D, Hazard needed just one touch before lashing a low left-footed drive into the Spurs net to send the Chelsea section into adulation.
And then came the icing on the Chelsea cake. Conte's third substitute, Cesc Fabregas, feed Hazard in a promising position down the Spurs left. His dazzling control evaded a couple of challenges before laying off Nemanja Matic 30-yards from goal. Without a second thought, the Serbian smashed a quite stunning shot past the helpless Lloris to well and truly seal Chelsea's spot in the FA Cup finale.
A breathless afternoon of football ended with six goals in total, however it was the number seven that came to prominence upon the final whistle: this would be Chelsea’s seventh FA Cup final of the 21st century, equalled only by Arsenal, whereas Tottenham had now lost their past seven FA Cup semi finals in a row, the longest such run in the competition.