The resurgent Timo Werner revealed he thought the job was done when his goal at Real Madrid put Chelsea ahead in their Champions League quarter-final tie for the first time.
Chelsea had a mountain to climb after a 3-1 first-leg defeat at Stamford Bridge, but an inspired performance in the return match had them on the brink of the last four.
Goals from Mason Mount and Antonio Rudiger brought the Blues back level on aggregate, before Werner struck 15 minutes from time.
It was a wonderful individual effort from the much-maligned forward, who followed up a brace at Southampton on Saturday by both scoring and assisting in this second leg.
Werner has been involved in six goals (four goals, two assists) in five Champions League outings this season, compared to just four (three goals, one assist) in 16 Premier League appearances.
He and Mount became the first pair of teammates to both score and assist against Madrid in the same Champions League game since Werder Bremen duo Markus Rosenberg and Boubacar Sanogo in 2007.
But it was ultimately not enough. Luka Modric forged a vital goal for Rodrygo to take the game to extra time, where Stamford Bridge hat-trick hero Karim Benzema headed the decisive effort in Madrid's 5-4 aggregate success.
"The home game made a difference because this was nearly a perfect performance from us," Werner said, "so we are very disappointed after what we put into this game and how we played.
"When I celebrated, I thought 'this is it'. We could have scored before that to make it 3-0, but the officials didn't give it to us; it is a point you can talk about, but when I scored I thought we are through with this.
"We nearly gave no chances to Madrid, but in the end we have to say the goals they scored were very good.
"There was one moment in regular time when we were not like we were the whole game, and Madrid have the quality to score against you, and they showed it for the 3-1.
"I think it was a brilliant goal, a brilliant cross from Modric, hard to defend."
Chelsea were bidding to become only the second team in 44 attempts in the Champions League era to overturn a two-goal home-leg deficit in the return match.
Werner said: "[The home defeat] was a problem because it put us in a very difficult situation, but also on the other side it was the thing that brings us for the second game to this level, because we know that we have to step up and we have to give everything.
"We had a brilliant game and we had 10 minutes to go through to make a miracle come true, so it is very disappointing."