The roller coaster ride of Chelsea's uneven 2011-12 season hit a new peak on Monday as the Blues handed Manchester City their first defeat of the English Premier League campaign, thereby providing first-year manager Andre Villas-Boas and his ever-evolving side a brief respite from incessant speculation and negativity.
The evening got off to an auspicious start, though, as City burned the Blues' high line with a goal from Mario Balotelli less than two minutes into the match.
Roberto Mancini's side failed to capitalize on the early momentum, though, before Raul Meireles turned the tide back in Chelsea's favor with a 34th-minute equalizer for his first goal since transferring from Liverpool.
The tables tilted further toward the home side at the start of the second half, when City left-back Gael Clichy was sent off after picking up two yellow cards in the span of just 11 minutes.
Chelsea held steady with the man advantage and finally took control in the 82nd minute, when long-time Stamford Bridge resident Frank Lampard, brought in as a reserve for Meireles, put through a penalty kick awarded for a Joleon Lescott handball.
The overall effort was hardly ideal, with both sides picking up four bookings, but the points will count all the same, as will the credit to Villas-Boas. The Blues boss has come under fire this season for his club's seeming lack of a firm identity and inability to register favorable results against other big clubs.
Even with Clichy's red card, there's no taking this one away from AVB. His club was the first to send the Citizens off the pitch without a point in the EPL this season and, as a result, sit third in the league table, just seven points behind Man U's "noisy neighbors."
There are still a number of concerns left to address at Stamford Bridge, namely what to do about Chelsea's leaky high line and how best to balance playing time between stalwarts like Lampard, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda and starlets like Daniel Sturridge and Oriol Romeu.
Not to mention the torrid Fernando Torres quagmire.
With all that, third-place in the league hardly a regrettable place to be with the January transfer window fast approaching. There will be rumors and financial figures thrown about, most notably regarding Luka Modric, and likely some reinforcements brought in.
But, for now, the Blues have a strong base off which to build and only slightly less heat from the supporters, the media and billionaire owner Roman Abramovich with which to concern themselves.