Didier Drogba scored twice to send Chelsea through to the knock-out phase of the Champions League after overwhelming Valencia at Stamford Bridge.
After often playing second-fiddle to Fernando Torres following his January transfer window move from Liverpool, Drogba served a timely reminder as to his quality, netting after just three minutes.
Midfielder Ramires scored a second after being playing in by Drogba, before Juan Mata slid the 33-year-old in 15 minutes from time to cap a memorable performance.
The win will relinquish the pressure off the shoulders of manager Andre Villas-Boas, who could have feared for his job had he become the first Blues boss not to guide the club to the last-16 of Europe’s premier club competition.
Despite having started their Champions League campaign undefeated in their first four games, Chelsea’s defeat to Bayer Leverkusen meant only a victory would guarantee them passage to the last 16, while a score draw would see Valencia progress alongside the German side.
From the outset Villas-Boas’ hit the front foot and in the absence of Frank Lampard it was left to Drogba to inspire them, and the Ivorian stepped up to the plate, striking home after Mata had pulled down Daniel Sturridge’s hopeful early cross.
The La Liga side were immediately forced to attack, and after Jordi Alba struck the post from a tight angle, David Albelda produced the best out of Petr Cech from range.
But just when Valencia looked like gaining a foothold in the game, the hosts doubled their lead when Drogba played in Ramieres, who while at first looked like he’d be marshaled well by Victor Ruiz, steamed through to finish cooly past Diego Alves.
Sturridge could have put Chelsea out sight, but shot weakly from a tight angle, before Sofiane Feghouli’s shot in anger forced Cech sprawl to his left.
The Blues were seeing little in the way of possession, but with Oriol Romeu breaking up Valencia’s waves of attacks and Mata playing an adept floating playmaker role they were always a threat on the break and despite Drogba skewing wide when well placed, he combined with the Spaniard to deadly effect to seal Chelsea’s qualification.
His performance was a further reminder to Villas-Boas that despite a recent contract dispute, and even at 33-years-old, he has the ability to win matches even in high-pressure circumstances.
It was the ideal repost to any doubters of the talents of the Portuguese boss, whose side showed the defensive temperament and attacking nouse to provide evidence their form may finally be on the turn.