This was a game at the Millennium Stadium of goals, red cards and pure footballing entertainment. A game that helped extinguish any prior thoughts that the League Cup was a meaningless competition.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger ruled out the possibility of playing experienced stars William Gallas, Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg and Jens Lehmann, opting to give his younger players the opportunity to continue their impressive form which included victories over Liverpool and arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur. In contrast, with Jose Mourinho's quadruple aspirations in sight, he was in no mood to rest any of his star players and duly delivered his promise with a full-strength XI.
Wenger responded to his critics in typically nonchalant style, saying: "If you want to play for Arsenal and say you cannot play in a final at 19 or 20, then you have a problem."
The game began with an enthralling midfield battle, as the experience of Messrs Lampard, Makelele, Ballack and Essien failed to combat the vibrant, youthful central-midfield partnership of Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Denilson.
Wenger's decision to play a team with an average age of under 21 looked inspired, as Abou Diaby slipped 17-year-old Theo Walcott through on goal in the 12th minute. He scored his first goal for the Gunners after finishing with a precision reminiscent of an absent Henry, who incidentally had never scored in a cup final.
The lead did not last long, as Didier Drogba controversially equalised for Chelsea a mere nine minutes later. As Arsenal's defence attempted to play the offside trap, Ballack lifted the ball over the top to Drogba who had the time to compose himself, despite the Gunners' screams for offside, and slot the ball past an onrushing Manuel Almunia.
Arsenal responded superbly and were unlucky not to regain their lead, as Ricardo Carvalho's last-ditch tackle on Jeremie Aliadiere ensured the sides were level going into the break. The second half followed similar suit, as Fabregas fired agonisingly wide after Petr Cech saved Diaby's effort.
A game-changing and memorable event occurred just after the hour mark, as Chelsea captain John Terry was knocked out by Diaby's flailing boot. After attempting to head in an Arjen Robben corner, Terry's brave dive towards the ball was greeted by a huge kick to the face, which appeared to knock the England captain unconscious. Breathing apparatus was applied and he was swiftly taken off to hospital.
The shock of seeing their captain knocked out clearly riled the Chelsea. Arsenal dealt with wave after wave of attacks but failed to prevent Drogba heading in his second goal in the 84th minute after a pin-point cross from Robben.
There was further controversy in the game after John Obi Mikel and Kolo Toure came to blows after a couple of strong challenges, causing a fracas involving a majority of the players, and leading Mourinho and Wenger to enter the field in an attempt to calm their troops down. Mikel, Toure and Arsenal substitute Emmanuel Adebayor were all sent off, ending a thoroughly entertaining game on a sour note.
Arsenal v Chelsea is on Sky Sports 1HD on Tuesday from 7.30pm