CHELSEA saw all their worst nightmares come true at White Hart Lane in a tale of disability, disorder and defeat.
Captain John Terry was sent off for two yellow-card tackles in just three minutes, and top-scorer Didier Drogba was forced to play 45 minutes with a groin injury as the Blues double hopes took a beating.
Title rivals Manchester United, playing at lunchtime, had already slimmed the gap at the top of the table to a single point before Chelsea took to the field. Whether or not Chelsea were aware of the result, they looked deflated and defeated from the off – giving their hosts the run of the opening stages.
Towards the quarter hour mark, Tottenham had three penalty appeals in the space of no more than a couple of minutes.
Referee Phil Dowd rightly dismissed the first two; but the third – a handball by Terry – he gave.
It was a soft penalty, probably more of a case of ball to hand, but Jermain Defoe did not waste the opportunity – sending Petr Cech the wrong way.
Whether the penalty was just or not, Chelsea looked out-run and out-played. Part of the problem was in midfield, where they were being torn apart by Spurs' pace. Off came Mikel: due to injury, but it could as easily been tactical.
And on marched Michael Ballack. The German did manage to calm down the midfield for a while, but Spurs then switched their focus to the wings.
Just before half time Roman Pavlyuchenko found Gareth Bale, who managed to tie Paulo Ferreira in knots in the box. The angle was tight, but Bale slotted past Cech for a second goal. Facing the unthinkable at half-time, Carlo Ancelotti had to act.
He brought on Nicolas Anelka and the newly fit Branislav Ivanovic for Joe Cole and Ferreira. But seconds later, and before kick off had even taken place, Drogba hobbled to the touchline with what looked like a groin strain.
The choice was bleak: play a clearly unfit Drogba, or face 45 minutes against a far superior spurs with 10 men. Drogba was ordered by his boss to stay on the field – something about which he didn't look pleased.
Temperatures were raised: Ancelotti argued with Drogba, with the fourth official, with anyone that looked his way.
And the mood spilled on to the pitch, when Frank Lampard cut down Luka Modric – and another 18 men jumped in to give their opinion.
There was much pushing and shoving, without any real naughtiness; but Lampard, Deco and Tom Huddlestone went into the referee's book.
The tackles started to fly. Terry saw yellow twice in three minutes, and he seemed to have few arguments about the red this equalled.
He walked down the tunnel, showing two fingers to his own bench – presumably signalling the historic double that was at stake.
Chelsea battled on with ten men, but it was fortuitous for their goal difference that Spurs had done so much work in the first hour.
Lampard pulled one back deep into injury time, but it was mere consolation.
Much has been made of how much the Blues have ridden their luck in recent weeks. Today, all that luck ran out.