Holders Chelsea stormed back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday and take their FA Cup quarter-final to a replay.
After Javier Hernandez opened the scoring in the fifth minute, Wayne Rooney marked his return to the United starting lineup with another early goal to put United 2-0 up at halftime.
Alex Ferguson’s side looked poised to move on from the hurt of their Champions League exit to Real Madrid, but second half goals from Eden Hazard and Ramires meant Chelsea kept one hand on the trophy.
The visitors might even have won, had David de Gea not produced a fine late stop to thwart Juan Mata, and Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez said his side would have been worthy victors.
United were guilty of an oddly disjointed performance, but Benitez — barracked, once again, by his own fans — could point to a second-half double substitution that changed the game’s momentum.
After the pain of last Tuesday’s loss to Madrid, Ferguson spared himself further unwanted headlines by recalling Rooney to his starting lineup, with Robin van Persie on the bench.
Meanwhile, Benitez resorted to what has emerged in recent weeks as his strongest team, with Fernando Torres and captain John Terry both relegated to a substitute’s role.
The two clubs’ fans had only just started to run through their repertoire of songs about each other when United took the lead.
Michael Carrick sent an angled pass over the Chelsea defense and as visiting goalkeeper Petr Cech rushed out, Hernandez guided a gentle header over him and into the net.
Six minutes later it was 2-0 as Rooney announced his return with a goal. Victor Moses was penalized for a foul on Nani near the left-hand apex of the penalty area and from the free-kick, Rooney bent in a cross that eluded everyone to creep inside the far post.
Jonny Evans blocked from Demba Ba and Frank Lampard shot straight at De Gea as Chelsea sought a response, but United were soon back on the attack.
After Hernandez had diverted a Nani cross wide of the near post, Cech produced a magnificent double-save.
An instinctive block from Rooney left the Chelsea goalkeeper on the floor, but he sprang to touch the ball over the bar after David Luiz inadvertently headed toward his own goal.
Cech saved again, from Tom Cleverley, but United grew sloppy and also lost Nani to injury just before halftime.
Having been controversially sent off against Madrid, the Portuguese winger had to leave the fray early for the second game in succession after abruptly going down on the edge of the Chelsea box.
Rooney feathered a chip over the bar in the stoppage-time that followed, but United’s carelessness had given Chelsea hope for the second period.
Benitez made a quick reshuffle shortly after the interval, introducing Hazard and John Mikel Obi in place of Moses and Lampard.
The move drew chants of: “You don’t know what you’re doing” from Chelsea’s fans, but it yielded immediate results.
Hazard reduced the arrears with a glorious strike in the 59th minute, ghosting into the box from the left and shaping a gorgeous curler into the right side of the goal.
In response, Ferguson introduced Van Persie, but Chelsea’s tails were up and in the 68th minute they drew level.
A counterattack left United’s defense exposed and when Oscar fed the ball wide to Ramires, he rolled the ball inside to throw Evans off balance before stroking a shot into the bottom-left corner.
Chelsea had two opportunities to win the game at the death, but De Gea saved brilliantly from Mata in the last minute before parrying a fierce shot from Hazard in stoppage-time.
Indian-owned Blackburn Rovers earned an FA Cup quarter-final replay against Millwall after riding their luck in a 0-0 draw at The Den on Sunday.
Michael Appleton’s team were second best for long periods of the last eight clash between two out of form Championship clubs, but they enjoyed their share of good fortune to set up a replay at Ewood Park tomorrow.
Andy Keogh’s first-half header struck a post, before Lions striker Rob Hulse missed an absolute sitter from close range in the second half.
Rovers, owned by Indian poultry firm Venky’s, have endured a troubled season in the second-tier after last year’s relegation from the Premier League and Appleton is Blackburn’s third manager of the campaign. They did not have a shot on target against Millwall, yet are still in with a chance of a Wembley semi-final appearance thanks to their escape in south London.
Rovers stunned Arsenal in the previous round and are yet to concede in this season’s competition, but they found it hard going from the start.
Millwall had the ball in the back of the net when Keogh headed home Chris Taylor’s corner, but the whistle had already gone as Dany N’Guessan impeded goalkeeper Jake Kean.
Republic of Ireland forward Keogh then saw a diving header come back off the post as he connected with Jack Smith’s deep cross five minutes before the break.
Blackburn had a good chance to take the lead early in the second half, but Scotland striker Jordan Rhodes could only fire over after latching on to David Bentley’s set-piece.
Kenny Jackett’s Millwall kept pushing for the opener and Nigerian defender Danny Shittu unleashed a ferocious dipping strike from long range, which Kean tipped over for a corner.
The hosts should have been ahead moments later when Keogh’s ball across the face of goal picked out Hulse, only for the on-loan QPR striker to miscue his shot high over the bar.
Blackburn came back into the game as the second half progressed and Josh King saw a header come back off a post.
It was Shittu who went closest to taking his side to the last four, testing Kean again from long range, with the Rovers goalkeeper doing well to claw the rebound away from Hulse.