For a man whose obsession with attacking football knows no bounds, it was a strange sight to see Arsène Wenger urging his players to put the brakes on when a red mass swarmed towards Petr Cech's goal. The Arsenal manager did his best Basil Fawlty impression as his team's instinctive way of protecting a 4-3 lead was to bomb forward in a buccaneering search for more.
"You know how it is on the bench when you are 4-3 up with two minutes to go," he said with a wry smile. "You do not necessarily encourage your team to become crazy. But that's the brand of our team, of our club. Sometimes you get rewarded, sometimes you pay for it."
Indeed. An outlandish bout, that veered theatrically between blue and red, brought enormous rewards for Arsenal, whose team demonstrated unbridled joy at the end of it all. None more so than the extraordinary Robin van Persie, the most influential figure in his club's renaissance, who celebrated a hat-trick of considerable refinement.
The price paid by Chelsea feels heavy and raw. Although André Villas-Boas would not reveal the sentiments shown by John Terry in the dressing room, the captain in the spotlight endured an afternoon that threatened to be heroic but left him brutally exposed.
The differing emotions of the two captains was highlighted in the 85th minute with a moment to provoke 41,801 jaws to drop. There was still all to play for as Florent Malouda's routine pass made its way towards Terry, but he tumbled inexplicably. Nobody was within five yards of him, the pitch was true and the day was bright and with no rhyme of reason the England captain's legs went from under him. There could be no worse sight from his position, prone on the pitch, than that of Van Persie accelerating away. The Premier League's current master of scoring dispatched the chance with aplomb, skipping around Cech to put Arsenal back in front and en route to a precious victory. Some might say Terry had bad luck, others might say it was karma.
That is two defeats in a row for Chelsea. Two derbies, as well. Arsenal, conversely, relished a triumph that demonstrated they are over their early season slump. Eight wins out of nine tells its own story, and this one was the most meaningful of them all. The handbrake was well and truly ripped off here.
It took courage as well as quality, as Chelsea began full of intent and purpose. Villas-Boas was left cursing the opportunities missed. Still, in the 14th minute they went in front. The move emanated from an excellent, searching crossfield pass that came from Terry's left foot. Juan Mata created space with customary trickery, and sent in a cross for Frank Lampard to nod past the goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Where a month ago this might have been the signal for an Arsenal collapse, they were not cowed. They kept going, and equalised in the 36th minute, when the excellent Aaron Ramsey threaded the ball to Gervinho, who squared for Van Persie to sidefoot past Cech. On the stroke of half-time Terry made the most of a corner to poke a shot into the bottom corner. The story was on his side at that point.
Arsenal rallied again. They emerged from the half-time break and immediately went on the attack, with Ramsey hooking a chance over the bar. In the 49th minute Alex Song picked a gaping hole in Chelsea's back line, and André Santos ran on to it and aimed his shot straight between Cech's legs.
A minute later and the pendulum swung back to the Blues, but things did not go their way. Ashley Cole advanced all alone in the inside-left position and Szczesny careered out of his area to meet him, performing a star jump in attempt to put the full-back off. The Pole collided into Cole, but the referee, Andre Marriner, deemed the infringement worthy of only a yellow card. To add to Chelsea's irritation, Szczesny tipped away Lampard's free-kick. "It's the ref's decision and it's done. That's all there is to say," was Villas-Boas's verdict.
Another sharp swing: Walcott ambled towards the thin blue line that now passed for Chelsea's defence. Four players were around the England winger, who skidded down to the turf then stumbled up, and sped away towards goal. He curled the ball ferociously past Cech at the near post.
Mata seized back the initiative with an emphatic strike from distance, and such are the stereotypes about these two teams it was odds-on a Chelsea winner. It speaks volumes for both these sides that there was never a question of anyone settling for a draw.
Van Persie rode to the rescue, as he has with such stunning regularity for Arsenal, and once he had made the most of Terry's misfortune, he supplied the coup de grâce with a thumping drive that swerved past Cech. He took home the match ball as well as the three points. That made for one happy captain.