CHELSEA have enjoyed some really special European nights at the Bridge down the years and they now have another one to compare with the very best.
Given the background of near hopelessness which had started to infect the club a few weeks ago, it looked as if we might be grateful just to witness a glorious failure like Arsenal's against Milan last week. But that was not what the old stagers had in mind. Not for a minute.
It was no surprise that the last three players to leave the pitch after deservedly milking the applause of enraptured home fans was Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard.
The trio did not hold back on an ounce of energy in the bid to claw back the 3-1 deficit from the first leg in Naples – the game that arguably did for Andre Villas-Boas after a crazy team selection that did not include Lampard, Ashley Cole or Michael Essien.
Drogba it was who got the ball rolling by heading in a cross from Ramires after 28 minutes and Terry it was who put the Blues ahead on away goals with the second, when he headed in a Lampard corner two minutes into the second half.
As for Lampard, he had the simple matter of firing in from the spot, as he has done so often, to ensure the game went to extra-time. Well, at least he usually makes it look simple.
Terry played for 98 minutes before weariness got the better of him and he was subbed, but he had no right to play as long as he did, considering he is only just getting back after injury.
But it typified the famous triumvirate's determination not to let the curtain fall on this year's campaign. They know they do not have many opportunities left to grab the prize that has been just tantalisingly out of reach on so many occasions.
Branislav Ivanovic (pictured) forced the penalty that brought it back to 3-1 and 4-4 on aggregate after 75 minutes – his header being handled by Andrea Dossena.
But even greater glory was to come for the Serbian when he joyously smashed the ball into the roof of the net after Ramires and Drogba had worked the ball in from the right.
That goal came at the end of the first period of extra time, but it still did not herald the end of the unremitting drama, as Napoli piled forward in search of the away goal that would have taken them and not Chelsea into the quarter-finals.
In sum, it was a game you felt privileged to watch, The electrifying pace and intensity hardly ever let up and if the final scoreline suggested clear superiority for the Blues, that was not quite the reality – especially during the first half, when the Italian side's fleet-footed forwards Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi caused palpitations with every attack.
It was a surprise that their enterprise was rewarded only once – when the tireless Gokhan Inler chested down a clearance on the edge of the Chelsea area and lashed an unstoppable drive beyond Petr Cech. That made it 2-1 Chelsea, but advantage Napoli, after 54 minutes.
The game's tempo also had a delicious contrast between the thrilling breaks from Napoli and the power and aerial assaults from Chelsea. Three of their goals were the result of headers.
Both approaches had merits and both seemed to require the keepers at both ends to be alert and on form as the chances kept coming.
In the end, though, it was maybe a case of the finesse of the Italians being trumped by the sheer heart and desire from the home side, who can hardly wait for Friday's draw.
Line-up: Cech; Ivanovic, Terry (Bosingwa 98), Luiz, Cole; Sturridge (Torres 63), Essien, Lampard, Mata (Malouda 95), Ramires; Drogba. Subs not used: Turnbull, Mikel, Kalou, Cahill.