The team built with an investment of a billion pounds walloped a side that cost no more than a million on Wednesday night but a 6-1 victory over Nordsjaelland failed to apply balm to the wound that opened up as Chelsea achieved the unenviable distinction of becoming the first winners of the Champions League to take their defence of the trophy no further than the group stage.
They closed their ill-fated campaign with a flourish but, although a series of party-piece goals gave them the only respectable result for a Premier League side in the closing round of group matches, it was just so much useless beauty.
Nothing could disguise the fact that the evening had turned into a wake for their ambitions of defending the trophy secured so dramatically 200 days earlier. Any hope entertained by Roman Abramovich that the hard-won victory in Munich might have been the prelude to an era of resplendent domination turned to dust during the autumn, in the failure to take more than a single point from two matches against Juventus and the away defeat at the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk.
They went out after amassing 10 points, but then so did Cluj. Juventus's 1-0 win in Donetsk condemned them to participation in the Europa League, which is not what Abramovich has had in mind at any stage of his ownership. Nevertheless there must have been a measure of relief among the board members that dissent among the supporters was defused by the sight of six goals being scored, the equal of the team's aggregate in their previous seven matches.
As they steamrollered Nordsjaelland, who were making their debut in this tournament, the home players could not be faulted for effort, commitment and what Rafael Benítez described afterwards as intensity. Despite lacking the leadership of the injured John Terry and Frank Lampard, they lifted themselves out of the slough of mediocrity through which they had trudged in their recent performances.
The strikes with which Juan Mata and Oscar widened Chelsea's margin of victory came after the sort of scintillating exchanges that the owner and his interim manager will be hoping to see more often as Chelsea resume their attempt to retrieve their season in domestic competition, starting at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
"It was for me a confirmation of everything I've been seeing in the training sessions," Benítez said but the fact remains that the thrashing was administered to a side who managed to secure only one point from their six fixtures.
Nothing was proved on Wednesday night, least of all the return to goalscoring potency of Fernando Torres, who struck twice but was unable to convert many other opportunities against a set of willing but modestly talented defenders.
"We helped him get back on track," the Danish club's manager, Kasper Hjulmand, said afterwards, "and I think you'll see in the next week that he regained his confidence today." But we have heard that before and until he scored in first-half injury time the story of Torres's involvement had been one of failing to make the most of a series of crosses and cut-backs delivered at a variety of heights, speeds and angles, none of which suited their recipient until he finally made the most of a lucky rebound off Jesper Hansen, the visitors' goalkeeper.
His first goal in a month came from his easiest finish since the one he scored to secure an astonishing draw with Barcelona in the Camp Nou back in April. It lightened the mood of an occasion that had begun in a sullen atmosphere, with both ends of the ground bursting into a chant of "There's only one Di Matteo" with the match barely four minutes old. At that stage the tension was simmering rather than crackling, the edge of expectation dulled by the knowledge that a Chelsea victory needed a comforting answer from the distant coalfields of eastern Ukraine.
Two draws and a defeat under Benítez had further soured the atmosphere already made rancid by the new manager's arrival. But however much the supporters may dislike him, the Spaniard was in no way to blame for the position in which Chelsea found themselves on Wednesday night, the holders of the European Cup with effectively no say in their own destiny.
His predecessor had been in charge for the preceding five fixtures, the ones that carried them to the brink of elimination. Roberto Di Matteo had taken them to that euphoric victory on a spring night in Bavaria by cosseting the big egos put out of joint by the previous regime and by restoring a familiar structure on the pitch. But the strategy was not enough to maintain their progress this season, despite further investment in the arrival of Eden Hazard and Oscar.
Benítez hardly raised his esteem in the fans' eyes by uttering a series of complaints about his new environment, concluding with the suggestion that Chelsea's motivation in their European matches was poor because winning the trophy had sated their appetite. If he was right, his words form a terrible indictment of the complacency of the modern footballer but it is a manager's duty to rekindle competitive enthusiasm and therein lay the failure of the much loved Di Matteo.
Torres's second goal on Wednesday night coincided with the news from Ukraine that an own-goal had given Juventus the lead. Two thousand miles away Chelsea's fate had already been sealed.