Wolves showed all the grit, fight and determination of the side Nuno Espirito Santo commanded twelve months ago, resisting the attacking strength of Frank Lampard's Chelsea side and fighting their way into the game as the end-to-end second half progressed.
Olivier Giroud's excellent goal-line technology-confirmed opener was cancelled out by a moment of individual magic from Daniel Podence, whose aggression and belief inspired Wolves to keep pushing against a Chelsea side who tired from the end-to-end nature of the game.
Pedro Neto got Wolves over the line and secured the three points, burying his low shot past Edouard Mendy in the 95th minute, then Chelsea with all eleven men attacking were unable to convert their corners in added time of added time.
The result lifted Wolves into 9th in the Premier League table, with Chelsea unable to move top at Molineux.
Story of the match
Knowing the attacking threat posed by Chelsea, Nuno went back to basics, ditching his back 4 experiments for a 3-4-3.
Willy Boly started ahead of Adama Traore and Ruben Neves featured in place of the suspended Joao Moutinho. Predictably, Lampard used a 4-3-3, with the attack formed by Christian Pulisic, Giroud and Timo Werner backed up by Kai Havertz and Mason Mount.
In a relatively uneventful and even first half, Wolves were happy to sit back and invite pressure, setting the tone for an end-to-end counterattacking game, which played to Wolves' strengths and frequently unbalanced a Chelsea side attempting to dominate in a more conventional way.
Chelsea seemed to generate more chances overall, though Wolves' were often of a higher quality, as they picked their moments to attack after performing their defensive duties well and counterattacking hard.
Chelsea singled out the Wolves right flank as a weak spot, frequently attacking the space in behind the defensively not brilliant Nelson Semedo and singling out Boly with numerical overloads. The forward drives of Ben Chilwell and the uncertainty provided by Mount put pressure on the Wolves right, and Pulisic performed admirably, winning the vast majority of his battles with Semedo.
One such battle led to Chelsea's most valuable player of the night winning a free kick from a dangerous area in the 36th minute, though the opportunity was squandered by a poor free kick routine. Semedo was eventually booked for stupidly bringing down the man who frequently humiliated him through the game.
In the absence of Raul Jimenez's central attacking threat, Wolves' midfielders pushed much higher than usual, with Ruben Neves drifting into positions reminiscent of those he occupied near the edge of the box during his Championship days. Even the centre-backs moved forwards, with Romain Saiss entering the midfield frequently and even Conor Coady pushing up the pitch and having a shot early on.
The Wolves forwards combined well in the 22nd minute, with Podence engineering an attack which saw Fabio Silva intelligently flick the ball on to Neto, who drilled it low and to the left, drawing a great save from Mendy.
Thankfully, VAR was applied perfectly this evening. The first use of technology came in the 33rd minute, with Michael Oliver awarding no penalty after Giroud headed the ball down onto the hand of Coady in the Wolves box - he determined that there was no intention to touch the ball.
Shortly before half-time, a Chelsea corner produced a brilliant header from Kurt Zouma, which ricocheted off Rui Patricio's bar - Werner was unlucky to not bury the rebound.
After a quiet first half showing, Leander Dendoncker was substituted off to give 19-year-old American Owen Otasowie his Premier League debut at the start of the second half.
In the 49th minute, Rui Patricio fumbled the save from a Giroud shot at the near post, allowing it to spill over the goal line by millimetres. Boly's hesitation in front of Giroud cost Wolves and, after a moment to check the decision with goal line technology, Stuart Attwell confirmed the goal. Unsurprisingly, the cross came in from Chelsea's left.
Mount picked up the first booking of the night in the 60th minute for a needlessly aggressive tackle on Otasowie after being left in the American's dust. Shortly after, Traore replaced Silva before a painful coming-together of Semedo and Chilwell. The absence of a specialist centre-forward left Wolves playing with a fluid front three.
In the 63rd minute Boly was left on the ground inside the Chelsea box after a Coady free kick from inside the Wolves half, with Attwell denying Wolves a penalty. Traore then hurt his right foot and had to limp on after a bad collision with Giroud in the centre of the park. He then spent five minutes in pain before being able to carry on properly.
In the 65th minute a Neto cross and Boly shot led to a debatable Wolves corner, with a moment of sheer genius from Podence just inside the box enabling him to shoot the ball off the back of Reece James and in over Mendy at the near post to equalise.
In the 70th minute Podence went down needing treatment, giving Chelsea the opportunity for a double substitution, with Tammy Abraham replacing Giroud and Mateo Kovacic replacing Havertz.
A strange incident in the 74th minute saw N'Golo Kante catch a throw-in, handing Wolves a free kick. Not long after, Abraham hit the deck under minimal contact from Otasowie in the centre of the pitch around 30 yards out. Mount's shot from the free kick was unable to beat Patricio.
Podence picked up a booking in the 76th minute for an overly aggressive response to Chilwell attempting to steal a Wolves throw, his intensity sparking a fierce attacking move from Wolves which was unfortunate to not put them in front.
Chelsea created multiple attacking opportunities through the second half, though few were of high quality.
A Pedro Neto driving run forwards led to James lunging in on the Wolves forward, though there was no contact, and a video replay led Attwell to correctly overturn his initial decision to award Nuno's men a penalty. VAR worked perfectly this evening, with every judgement wholly fair.
The frustration and relief of the VAR decision ignited some end-to-end play, with Chelsea attacking fast and hard, overwhelming the Wolves defence quickly after play resumed.
Neto again drove forward in the 85th minute, this time down the wing, with Kante picking up a yellow for dragging him to the floor. Neves' delivery from the free kick was uncharacteristically poor, and Otasowie was unable to keep the ball in on the opposite flank. Neves took his frustration out through a late tackle on Kovacic for which he was lucky to stay out of the book.
An 89th minute Chelsea attack from a quick free kick led to nothing, with Chilwell launching the ball into the Stan Cullis stand under no pressure at all. Podence then made way for attacking midfielder Vitinha, who contributed well through the long five minutes of added time, made longer by an injury to Willy Boly temporarily reducing Wolves to ten men.
In the 95th minute Neto counterattacked hard, picking up a Vitinha through ball far from the Chelsea goal before dribbling forward alone, cutting onto his left foot near the edge of the box, then firing his low shot past Mendy to put Wolves in front.
Chelsea then attacked hard in the final moments looking for an equaliser, sending the goalkeeper up for their last couple of corners, but they were unable to salvage a point.
A new 3-4-3
Without the physicality of Jimenez in the middle of the forward line, a 3-4-3 built around Silva was always going to look different to the one used last season. Offering more in the way of build-up contributions than direct goalscoring threat, Silva often dropped deep or pulled wide, frequently picking out the right passes and movements, especially early on for Neto's first shot. He did have a couple of attempts himself - he got the ball in the net in the 55th minute from a Neto through ball, but he was miles offside.
The 18-year-old Portuguese showed a startling degree of intelligence playing as a false 9, and will surely grow to become one of the Premier League's most complete and dangerous centre-forwards.
The deep movements of Silva invited Neves and Dendoncker (later Otasowie) high up the pitch, into the regions in which Neves can be effective and dictate the game. His wide balls out to the wingers and wing-backs, along with Coady's, were very easy on the eye. Wolves played with a brilliant level of confidence and style.
Chelsea convincing then complacent
Lampard's men started the game strongly, and were well-organised going forwards, able to attack effectively and get themselves into some great positions, more thanks to the work of Pulisic than anything else. However, aside from Giroud's strike Chelsea seemed largely toothless in front of goal, unwilling to commit sufficient numbers into the box to be able to deal with Wolves' low block, possibly for fear of the rapid counterattacking threat posed by Neto, Podence and Semedo.
As the game progressed and livened up it became an end-to-end affair, with Chelsea's defence and midfield tiring and making more and more positional mistakes, which gifted the Wolves attackers pockets of space in which to operate. The positional discipline which seemed so strong in the first half disappeared, allowing Vitinha to slip the ball through to the waiting Neto late on. Chelsea will have a lot to work on in training before a vital run of fixtures against West Ham, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Manchester City.
Man of the match: Daniel Podence
Podence shone for Wolves, with unpredictable short passes and through balls constantly punching holes in the Chelsea defence. His mindset, bursting with aggression and desire, seemed to inspire his team-mates and deflate his opponents as the second half progressed, and his individual skill provided the equaliser, with smart body movements throwing his marker off balance before he sent an unsaveable shot towards Mendy's goal. A number of those in old gold played admirably, but Podence fully deserves his man of the match recognition.