The rivalry between Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas and Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho produced a true game of two halves at White Hart Lane, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Spurs midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson gave the home side a 19th-minute lead when he got ahead of John Terry to slide home Roberto Soldado's cushioned ball from Christian Eriksen's cross to slide home.
In the 65th minute, however, Terry found space behind the Tottenham defence to head home from Juan Mata's flighted free-kick.
Torres had battled with the Belgium international throughout the game, and the Spain international could have counted himself fortunate to remain on the field after appearing to scratch at Vertonghen's face during an earlier clash between the two players.
The former Liverpool striker also could have found himself in hot water after sarcastically clapping a linesman for not awarding a foul in his favour in the first period.
Eriksen bossed the opening half for Spurs in another excellent display for Villas-Boas' team. But he found his influence on the wane after the interval as Mata took control for Chelsea.
However, the result sent Tottenham to the top of the Premier League table, ahead of North London rivals Arsenal, at least for a few hours before the Gunners took on Swansea City.
Key Player Grades
Christian Eriksen B+
The Denmark international again proved to be the crucial cog for Tottenham in the first period as he ran the show for the home side.
Eriksen has been widely praised this season, and his performance again justified why Villas-Boas shelled out £12 million to Ajax during his summer spending spree on the back of Gareth Bale's world-record move to Real Madrid.
But the influence of the Tottenham midfielder waned after the interval as a rejuvenated Chelsea took the game to the hosts, spurred on by the presence of Mata.
Fernando Torres: A-
Who said Torres was past his best? The Chelsea striker looked sharp and willing to run every blade of grass he could for Chelsea.
He was denied a higher mark only by his foolish actions in appearing to scratch at Vertonghen's face in the second period.
His red card for a challenge with the Belgium international with 10 minutes remaining was harsh, but he should have left the field earlier.
Juan Mata: A
The debate over Mourinho's decision not to include Mata regularly this season will continue to rage, but even now the Chelsea manager must be looking at the difference he made in the second half at White Hart Lane.
Chelsea supporters must also be wondering what the final score could have been if the Spain midfielder had been on from the start instead of replacing the ineffective John Obi Mikel for the second half.
The only reason he has been given an A and not an A+ here is because he was not on the pitch for the full 90 minutes.
Mousa Dembele: A+
The Tottenham midfielder fully deserved his Man of the Match award for his display.
The Belgium international was an outstanding presence for Villas-Boas throughout the first period, and he maintained his tempo in more defensive duties as Chelsea improved immeasurably after the break.
The 26-year-old was a constant thorn in Chelsea's side during the first 45 minutes with his precise passing and dangerous runs.
Mourinho says Mata will start in the Champions League clash with Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday following his impressive display in the second half at Tottenham, as the official Chelsea Twitter feed reported.
Mourinho claims gaining a point at the home of a Premier League title rival can never be viewed as a bad result, though the Chelsea boss also believes the dismissal of Torres cost his team a potential three points.
Villas-Boas believes the turning point for his team came when Paulinho hit the post when he could have added a second for the home side.
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