CHELSEA'S stirring fightback fell just short as their amazing run of FA Cup success at Wembley finally came to an end.
They looked dead and buried after going 2-0 down at the start of the second half, but somehow lifted themselves out of their lacklustre mode to give Man City an almighty fright.
Demba Ba's goal midway through the second half – the first City have conceded on their way to the final - changed the atmosphere immediately and the Blues sensed a reprise of their great quarter-final comeback at Old Trafford.
In the end, though, they were left lamenting a poor first half display as they suffered their first defeat in eight FA Cup games at the stadium.
The fact they came up short will inevitably give rise to the nagging thought that they now do not have the one man they could always rely on to rise to the occasion – the great Didier Drogba no longer around to strut his stuff on the stage he loved.
The Blues endured a tough opening to the game, which hinted at the trouble to come.
City pinned them them back and almost took the lead when Gareth Barry drilled a ball in from the left and Petr Cech was forced into a smart save low to his right to deny Sergio Aguero after the Argentinian had instinctively helped on a Yaya Toure shot.
They also went close when Aguero reached a long ball from Vincent Kompany, but Branislav Ivanovic blocked the volley.
Chelsea slowly got a foothold in the match and from a half-cleared Juan Mata free-kick, Eden Hazard sent a scuffed volley goalwards that Kompany had plenty of time to head off the line.
Then came the opener on 35 minutes. Yaya Toure drove at the heart of a retreating Blues defence from half way and Aguero, picking up the Ivorian's pass, touched the ball back for Nasri to put away at the second attempt – Cesar Azpilicueta having got in the way initially.
Mata clipped an Oscar pass narrowly wide with a first-time effort, but it had not been a great half and might have been even worse in injury time when a breakaway from City ended with Cech spooning a James Milner cross into the air for the late-arriving Kompany to half-volley wide.
With a little more composure, the City captain would have found the net.
But they did not have to wait too much longer to establish a two goal lead.
The second half was only two minutes old when Barry clipped a ball in from the right and Aguero got ahead of Azpilicueta to send a looping header in off a post – Cech left helpless.
If that looked like game set and match, Chelsea had everyone thinking again with a sudden surge of power that made it look as if a switch somewhere had been flicked.
Moments after Fernando Torres had come on in place of John Obi Mikel to alter the formation, a long high ball from David Luiz was missed by Komany and Ba spun sharply to send a volley past Costel Pantilimon.
Energised by the moment, the Blues poured forward, and twice in a minute, only the superb intervention of Joe Hart's understudy saved the day for City.
First, Pantilimon timed a low dive at the feet of Mata to perfection to steal the ball off the Spaniard, then he got behind a full-blooded drive from Ba (pictured) after Hazard had skipped to the byline and pulled the ball back across the six yard box. So close to the target, it looked as if the Senegal striker must score.
David Luiz curled a free-kick just wide as the Blues continued to believe there was something in the game for them and on another day, Torres might have got a penalty after Kompany had tussled with him – both players desperately lunging for the ball.
It was not to be this time, and now only the Europa League remains as a possible piece of silverware.
Line-up: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Bertrand; Ramires, Mikel (Torres 66); Oscar, Mata, Hazard, Ba. Subs not used: Turnbull, Lampard, Moses, Terry, Benayoun, Ake.