André Villas-Boas's selection made the point eloquently enough. This was virtually the strongest starting lineup he could have named and, to reinforce the theme of the day, there was even room on the substitutes' bench for a recently retired player. Young Sam Hutchinson might not get the same headlines as Paul Scholes.
Chelsea cannot pick and choose the trophies they chase and the FA Cup is one that Villas-Boas wants to win. They remain in contention, following a performance that came to the boil in dramatic fashion, after Juan Mata's sixth goal for the club had for much of the second half looked likely to suffice.
Three goals in the final minutes gave the scoreline an unfortunate appearance for Portsmouth, who had been a match for Chelsea while never truly threatening to get a result. Ramires's one-two punch was stunning and it brought the seventh and eighth goals of his season, with Fernando Torres claiming both assists. Torres departed to a generous ovation, gilding a largely inconsistent performance with a positive finish – a little like his team. Frank Lampard's low injury-time shot brought the visitors to their knees.
Chelsea's confidence has been fragile, particularly at Stamford Bridge, and there was relief to be found in their fourth home win in nine attempts before the fourth-round draw served up, potentially, the tie that the club's PR department might have dreaded. If Queens Park Rangers get past MK Dons in their replay, Chelsea will travel to Loftus Road and the buildup will focus on Anton Ferdinand versus John Terry. Ferdinand's allegations of racism against Terry remain under investigation.
"I think the scoreline today was a bit harsh on Portsmouth," Roberto Di Matteo, the Chelsea assistant manager, said. "But we also deserved a little bit of goals. This is a competition we would like to win and we have taken a step towards the target."
It was a strange afternoon for Michael Appleton, the Portsmouth manager. There were positives for him, in terms of his team's discipline, yet they departed on the wrong end of a comprehensive scoreline. "But that's why Chelsea are where they are and we are a Championship club," Appleton said. "The longer the game goes on, the more fatigue and loss of concentration comes in and they have the players who can be clinical."
Portsmouth, revelling in a day away from the Championship dogfight and talk of new ownership, were left to wonder what might have been after they flickered in the first minute. Marko Futacs flicked on and Dave Kitson burst between David Luiz and John Terry only to pull his shot wide.
Portsmouth arrived at the ground only 45 minutes before kick-off but their concentration and commitment did not waver in the first half, when Aaron Mokoena and David Norris also had sightings of goal. Chelsea were laboured in the opening period and the crowd had little to quicken their pulse save for the occasional burst from Lampard and David Luiz's outrageous skills in the wrong areas.
Torres reflected the best and worst of Chelsea in the first half. He timed his run to meet Florent Malouda's excellent 13th-minute cross to draw a save out of Stephen Henderson and he later tricked away from Jason Pearce, who pulled him back to incur a yellow card.
Yet Torres was also reduced to campaigning in vain for decisions. Pearce's challenge on him inside the penalty area was clumsy and borderline but the defender did not react well to Torres's rather desperate tumble while the striker lay motionless on the touchline after being checked by Mokoena.
Di Matteo said that patience against deep-sitting opponents was essential but "it was just a matter of scoring the first goal". Mata's effort owed everything to Malouda, who outpaced Mokoena to pull back invitingly for him. Kitson argued that Ashley Cole had handled when he won possession for Chelsea but any offence did not look deliberate. Malouda's performance, meanwhile, felt like a gentle reminder to Villas-Boas.
Portsmouth's response almost yielded the equaliser. Kitson caught David Luiz messing around in possession and he fed Futacs, who got away from Terry and in on Petr Cech's goal before his shot was blocked by the goalkeeper. Joel Ward's headed effort on the rebound was smuggled off the line by the covering Terry, who hurt himself against the post in the process, and Norris's follow-up shot was saved by Cech. Terry said afterwards that he was fine.
Portsmouth found the onus to create too much for them and they struggled to stretch Chelsea yet they did not deserve the final scoreline. Torres's header from Mata's cross ushered in Ramires for his first and the Brazilian finished magnificently after taking Torres' pass and racing in on goal from the halfway line.