CHELSEA qualified for the group stages of next seasons Champions League with a 2-1 win over Everton.
All the talk of goal difference and play-offs proved superfluous, as Blues finished the season third – two points ahead of Arsenal.
The team sheet had brought one or two surprises: Fernando Torres and Demba Ba starting their first ever match together; and Nathan Ake lining-up alongside Frank Lampard in the engine room.
The big surprise, however, was the inclusion on the bench of Andreas Christensen – though the 17-year-old centre half signed from Brondby last year didn't feature on-pitch the end.
Chelsea knew at kick off that the only way to be sure of third spot was to win. The convoluted calculations involved in a potential play off were a place that nobody at the club wanted to think about going.
They made a great start in the 8 th minute: Oscar passing wide right to Demba Ba for a shot on goal. The ball was parried by Tom Howard – but only into the path of Juan Mata, who netted his 20 th goal of the season.
But the lead was only short-lived. Seven minutes later, Steven Naismith started a move which found the Chelsea defence napping. David Luiz made a howler of a pass, the ball went to Victor Anichebe – who used his physicality to beat his man.
The ball was squared to Naismith – who easily equalised. Toffees could have taken the lead moments later: a Darron Gibson shot from the edge of the box hitting the post, rebounding off Petr Cech's head, and latterly being cleared by Luiz.
Chelsea faded as the half progressed, and were probably the happier to be going in level at the break. The second half was no less pulsating. The same series happened over and over: Chelsea build-up; smothered shot; Everton break; defensive mayhem.
When Arsenal took the lead at St James' Park it was a warning shot fired across the boughs – but who was listening? Ba set-up Mata for a relatively straightforward chance – but the Blues double player of the year seemed to fall over his feet.
It was Ba's last move of the afternoon: Benitez opting to end his late experiment with the two strikers to bring on Vicor Moses. The new man was at the heart of the winning goal.
With a quarter of an hour to go, Oscar put in a ball from the right: Moses headed down, and Fernando Torres rifled home. It was a vital time for Torres' first Premier League goal of 2013.
Rafael Benitez mixed things up again. First he brought on Cesar Azpilicueta for Juan Mata: the new man settling in front of Branislav Ivanovic on the right. Two right backs? The crowd wanted more. To chants of 'Paulo Ferreira' the Portuguese fullback, out of contract next month, entered the fray.
The end was part relief, part celebration. The man on the PA announced that it was third place and a trophy – as if he was reading out someone's objectives. And Chelsea partied in the sunshine. 69 games, two managers – and more mayhem than you can shake a stick at. Cheerio 2012-13. Here's to a Special 2013-14?