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Double vision for Chelsea as super Spurs are slain

Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino sought to play down the influence an FA Cup semi-final might have upon the Premier League title race before kick-off, but the manner of Chelsea's 4-2 win over persistent pursuers Tottenham stands as the most venomous of body blows.

Nemanja Matic's incredible 30-yard thunderbolt rattled explosively into Hugo Lloris' top corner and simultaneously thudded into the gut of this brilliant, vibrant Spurs team.

Twice the north Londoners were behind, twice they came back and it took Conte rowing back on a pre-match selection gamble to finally bring them to their knees.

It is safe to say the Italian's pre-match sentiment jarred against his Chelsea team selection.

"This is the kind of game that every footballer and every coach wants to be a part of," he said in his programme notes before duly leaving star attackers Diego Costa and Eden Hazard on the bench.

Costa and Hazard were famously below par during last season's shambolic showing, so it was hard to begrudge Willian his moment in the sun.

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The Brazil winger was the man with his fingers in the damn as a title defence collapsed all around him, but he has been confined to the margins this time around.

He dusted off his calling card after only five minutes at the national stadium, following Toby Alderweireld's scything challenge on Pedro. Lloris will not have enjoyed being beaten to his left as a dipping free-kick took the defensive wall out of the equation.

Spurs staggered through the period immediately after the opener, recalling the manner in which they have faltered after statement moments this season.

They followed brilliant victories over Manchester City and Chelsea with ill-timed clusters of Premier League draws and, faced with the once runaway leaders they have hauled in over recent weeks, Pochettino's men seemed to momentarily freeze.

Of course, being ice cold is a virtue for penalty box predators and Harry Kane was alive to the possibilities of Christian Eriksen's brilliant left-footed delivery to head Spurs level.

Short of their most dazzling fluency, Pochettino's men wrestled control of the contest until one of their heroes of late had a moment to forget.

Son Heung-min has proved an irresistible attacking presence, with eight goals in his past six matches, but the defensive side of his left wing-back brief proved predictably lacking when an over-eager slide invited Victor Moses to take a tumble in the box.

Willian v Lloris part two. Same result. 2-1.

Tottenham could easily have bemoaned their luck, bemoaned Wembley – the scene of their contrastingly limp efforts in Europe this term – and dread the prospect of playing home games under the arch next season.

But Pochettino sent out a side revitalised for the second half to craft an equaliser of the highest quality. Eriksen supplied the ammunition – wondrously so with his right foot on this occasion – and Dele Alli was ice cool in picking out the top corner for his 20th goal of the season.

It was a high-quality goal to prompt bedlam in the Spurs end. Suddenly, it felt like their time. Conte sensed this and called for the cavalry.

The frenetic pace of the contest briefly appeared beyond Hazard the substitute, but it is a brave punter who wagers against this imperious performer bending big occasions to his will.

There was a sense of inevitability when the Belgium superstar menacingly drew back his left foot in the 75th minute and Lloris' net bulged in the blink of an eye.

Five minutes later, it was impossible to foresee Matic's thrilling coup de grace. Kurt Zouma's manic screaming on the Chelsea bench – caught somewhere between winning gameshow contestant and horror-movie extra – spoke for all of a capacity crowd that instantly became lighter at the Tottenham end.

This will sting those fans who departed with heads bowed and Pochettino's fine team, the prizes they crave feeling so near and yet still so tantalisingly out of reach.