LONDON: Chelsea crave, more than anything else, for this season's legacy not to be disciplinary furores, conspiracy theories or, worst of all, the deep scar of racism, but the beauty of exhilarating football and the glitter of silverware in the May sunshine.
Yet after a grim week in which the club's reputation was dragged through the dirt by the actions of a group of supporters in Paris, yesterday's spectacular implosion, triggered by a moment of madness by midfielder Nemanja Matic, was just what Jose Mourinho's League leaders needed least.
What should have been a routine victory over second-from-bottom Burnley, built on Branislav Ivanovic's early goal, disintegrated in front of Chelsea's eyes after Matic was sent off 20 minutes from time by referee Martin Atkinson for shoving Ashley Barnes to the ground in retaliation for an ugly challenge.
Nine minutes from the end, Burnley inflicted a stunning blow when central defender Ben Mee climbed highest at a corner to head home and grab a deserved point for the visitors. And Chelsea could have paid an even higher price but Burnley's Danny Ings blazed over in the last minute.
Mourinho, who will now be without his influential midfielder for Sunday's Capital One Cup final with Tottenham, was upset with Barnes's challenge on Matic, and several other decisions that went against his side.
Recalling the controversy over Diego Costa's stamp on Emre Can during the recent Capital One Cup semi-final, he said: "I am not going to call it anything because if I do I am going to use some words... a couple of weeks ago after the Liverpool game I knew already what was running on television, saying 'Diego crimes'. So compare 'Diego crimes' with what happened today."
Mourinho claimed the match turned on a series of key moments in which Chelsea failed to get decisions they wanted from Atkinson. Apparently referring to two rejected penalty appeals, a perceived foul by Barnes on Ivanovic and Matic's red card, he said: "Minutes 30, 33, 43 and 69. I cannot comment on that story. It is difficult for me to say the truth. I make it easy for you. You go home and you look at these moments and you know what I think."
"Minute 69 has a big relation with minute 30 because normally, the player, if I can call him a player, who was involved in minute 69 and minute 30, normally he would have been in the shower. So I prefer to finish here and say minute 30, 33, 43 and 69 - the story of the day."
Sean Dyche, the Burnley manager deflected criticisms of Barnes, who may face retrospective action. "I will look back at it at some point, I haven't seen it but if that's the big talking point, I think there's more to the game than that. I thought we were excellent today," he said.
Yet it had been so different at the outset. Chelsea weaved their passing patterns with dangerous intent from the start, and when Juan Cuadrado lost possession just outside the visitors' penalty it was simply the cue for Eden Hazard to collect the ball, dodge past three challenges and pull back a pass for Ivanovic to roll home from eight yards after just 14 minutes.
Burnley's task had suddenly become even steeper but Sean Dyche's men refused to be overawed. Strugglers they may be but this is still the resilient side who recovered a two-goal deficit to draw at Chelsea's main title rivals, Manchester City over Christmas.
Chelsea dominated possession and dictated the tempo and Burnley had to survive two penalty scares, firstly when Michael Kightly's raised arm blocked a fierce shot from Ivanovic, then when Jason Shackell's nudge on Diego Costa sent the Chelsea striker, back after a three-match domestic ban, spinning. Both appeals were waved away by Atkinson.
Reduced to 10 men by Matic's moment of madness, it became a different game, although Chelsea substitute Ramires got forward to thunder a shot wide with 12 minutes remaining. Now Burnley sensed their chance. Thibaut Courtois pushed Barnes's low shot away for a corner, and from Kieran Trippier's kick, Mee rose high to head powerfully home.