Chelsea moved within touching distance of the Champions League semi-finals thanks to a stunning 3-1 victory over Liverpool in Wednesday's quarter-final first leg at Anfield.
Guus Hiddink's side produced a breathtaking response after falling behind to an early Fernando Torres strike as Branislav Ivanovic buried two headers before Didier Drogba added a third goal.
Liverpool had beaten Chelsea twice in the league this season, but that was during Luiz Felipe Scolari's underwhelming reign.
The Blues have been back to their imposing best since Hiddink replaced Scolari and they swept Liverpool aside to leave next Tuesday's return at Stamford Bridge looking a formality, with a last four clash against Barcelona, big winners over Bayern Munich on Wednesday, now on the cards.
Rafa Benitez's team had only themselves to blame. Steven Gerrard was completely out of touch and woeful marking gifted Ivanovic his goals. Now the Reds, for so long Chelsea's bogey team in Europe, look odds on to crash out against the Londoners for the second successive season.
Hiddink said: "If you score in an away Champions League tie it is a tremendous blow to the opposition and that is what we aimed for. We wanted to neutralise Gerrard and make them sweat in defence.
"But it is only half-time in the tie. If we go to the second game thinking it will be easy that would be wrong. We have seen in the past what Liverpool are capable of."
Benitez added: "We scored the first goal and were doing well. But they had some chances and we conceded from a corner when we could have done better.
"After that we were not in control. The second game will be very difficult now because we have to score three goals."
Benitez's pre-match barbs towards Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson suggested he was more concerned about the Premier League title race than success in Europe.
But Anfield on a big European occasion stirs the soul like no other venue and, with Liverpool seeking revenge for last season's semi-final exit against Chelsea, it was no surprise to see Benitez's side make a ferocious start.
From Liverpool's first attack, Ivanovic almost deflected Dirk Kuyt's powerful strike into his own goal.
If that was a fortunate escape for Chelsea, they had no such luck in the sixth minute as Liverpool sliced through their defence in clinical fashion.
Kuyt's back-heel picked out Alvaro Arbeloa on the right and his cross caught the Blues flat-footed. Torres took full advantage to steer a perfectly placed shot past Petr Cech.
Anfield went wild but, with the celebrations still in full swing, Drogba had a golden opportunity to silence the Kop. Fabio Aurelio's error allowed Salomon Kalou to pick out Drogba, but with just Jose Reina to beat his shot was too close to the Liverpool keeper.
These English powerhouses were meeting for the fifth successive season in Europe and, while previous ties have often been stifled by both sides' caution, this was an open encounter.
Torres was terrifying the visitors' defence with his pace and movement. He pulled clear of Frank Lampard before curling a long-range strike just over.
Drogba's first miss had been bad enough but the Ivory Coast star was guilty of an even worse effort in the 30th minute. When Michael Ballack whipped in a low cross, Drogba had Reina's goal at his mercy, yet he lashed over from no more than 10 yards.
After such a frenetic opening, Liverpool were beginning to falter and Chelsea, sensing blood, equalised in the 39th minute when Ivanovic met Florent Malouda's corner with an emphatic header that flashed past Reina for his first Chelsea goal.
Drogba threatened again when he overpowered Martin Skrtel to reach Lampard's pass and slid his shot past Reina, only for Jamie Carragher to make a superb goal-line clearance.
Then John Terry, one booking away from a suspension, rashly challenged Reina for a ball the keeper was clearly going to win. Both players fell to the turf but when Terry got up Danish referee Claus Bo Larsen was waiting with a yellow card that rules him out of the return leg.
Just as the momentum appeared to have swung in Liverpool's favour, Chelsea took the lead in the 62nd minute from another set-piece.
When Lampard curled over a corner, Liverpool, marking zonally rather than man-to-man, allowed Ivanovic a clear run at the ball. Once again he made them pay with a bullet header past Reina.
Liverpool were stunned and there was worse to come. Five minutes later Ballack played in Malouda, whose low cross was turned in by Drogba from close-range.