Maurizio Sarri had angrily accused Chelsea of being difficult to motivate and was given a fierce response in a highly-charged, fully-committed Carabao Cup semi-final as they defeated Tottenham Hotspur in a penalty shoot-out.
David Luiz stroked home the decisive kick, sparking wild celebrations, as Chelsea converted their first four with Eric Dier, who shot over the crossbar, and Lucas Moura, whose effort was saved, missing for Spurs.
It was tough on an injury-ravaged Spurs, and manager Mauricio Pochettino, who dug deep to draw themselves back into this tie after being overwhelmed by an Eden Hazard-inspired Chelsea in the first half.
Chelsea will now face Manchester City in the final.
Tottenham's Harry Winks in action with Chelsea's Eden Hazard. Photo: Ian Walton/Reuters
There had been so much discussion and analysis on who would be capable of scoring given the list of absentees or those whose form had dived that it would inevitably be a surprise candidate who broke the deadlock.
Step forward N'Golo Kante who did just that as a corner was cleared to him on the edge of the penalty area.
The midfielder had time and he struck a low shot that Ben Davies threw himself at, with the ball going through his legs, then through Moussa Sissoko's legs and, incredibly, also going through the legs of goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
That was a severe blow to Spurs, no longer ahead in this tie, with less than half an hour played and there was another with Davies limping off - having hurt himself trying to block Kante's shot - to become yet another addition to their injury list which is so stretching them.
Chelsea had shown the intensity Sarri accused them of lacking.
It was feisty, also, with Luiz claiming he was caught by Dier, Jorginho fouled by Dier and Toby Alderweireld penalised for a trip on Hazard as it felt reminiscent of the 'Battle of the Bridge' in 2016 when Spurs' Premier League title hopes were ended by Chelsea.
Tottenham's Fernando Llorente celebrates scoring their goal with Harry Winks and Serge Aurier. Photo: Matthew Childs/Reuters
Spurs felt things conspired against them then and they were further damaged as Chelsea extended their advantage and did so far too easily.
Hazard started and ended the move as he ran at the Spurs defence, who were slow to react from a quick free-kick, before finding Pedro who quickly picked out the overlapping Cesar Azpilicueta.
The defender pulled the ball back and Hazard simply guided it left-footed beyond Gazzaniga and into the corner of the net. It was Hazard's first goal in seven games and Chelsea were rampant; Spurs in disarray.
With Gonzalo Higuain presented to the fans prior to kick-off, after securing his loan deal, Sarri eschewed the 'false nine' and used Olivier Giroud as a central striker which may well be one of the final opportunities of seeing him start there if the former Juventus striker works out.
Hazard was liberated. For Spurs, more so, it was about coping with absent players shorn as they are of their first-choice attacking triumvirate of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, both injured and due to be out until March, and Son Heung-min who is at the Asia Cup with South Korea.
The tweak by Pochettino was to revert to a midfield diamond and ask Erik Lamela to partner Fernando Llorente upfront.
Tottenham's Serge Aurier battles for the ball with Chelsea's Ross Barkley. Photo: Reuters
But they were penned back and Spurs were fortunate not to concede a penalty, or at least a free-kick right on the edge of their area, as Alderweireld brought down Hazard on half-time.
And, just as it appeared Spurs were being overwhelmed, they struck back. Harry Winks spread the play wide to the left and Danny Rose, Davies's replacement, crossed with Llorente stealing between Luiz and Emerson Palmieri to stoop and head past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea responded. First Gazzaniga parried from Giroud, and scrambled to claim the rebound, and then Hazard was set clear by Kante only to wastefully slam his shot wide before Jan Vertonghen made two brilliant interceptions inside his own area to deny Chelsea.
Spurs suffered another injury setback, losing Sissoko, who had only just returned to fitness, and was hurt in a freak incident as his team-mate Serge Aurier cleared and caught him with his boot.
Finally, Giroud had the chance to win it in added time - but weakly headed Emerson's cross wide.
There was no extra-time. It went straight to penalties for a place in the final. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)