Chelsea may be in for Fernando Torres but they would be out of the FA Cup without Petr Cech.
The goalkeeper produced a save from Donegalman Seamus Coleman to prevent Everton going two in front that proved to be a turning point when Chelsea mounted a swift counterattack to equalise, then denied Jermaine Beckford with a fingertip save in the final minutes to earn a replay.
A draw was a fair result in a game that only got going at half-time, yet Everton did enough to win and could reasonably claim that only Cech, with crucial back-up from Michael Essien when it mattered, prevented them inflicting the first Cup defeat on Chelsea since Barnsley beat them in March 2008.
Essien threw his body in the way of Coleman's attempt to follow up his own headed effort in a manner that demonstrated Chelsea's determination and the desire to keep their hands on a trophy that has resided at Stamford Bridge for the past two years. Playing their strongest team was a similar declaration of intent, though for most of the second half the visiting team seemed not to have turned up. It was all Everton.
"A draw was a great result for us," a relieved Carlo Ancelotti said. "It was a difficult game, they were very dangerous at set pieces, and every time we play Everton we see a close match. We keep on drawing against them."
David Moyes made optimistic noises about Everton's chances in London but was probably closer to the mark in his programme notes when he said his players had to make home advantage count. "We nearly did," the Everton manager said. "We probably did enough to win, and I don't think Chelsea would have come back from two down, but their goalkeeper makes a great save, they score, and that's what happens against quality opponents."
The first half was truly terrible, a slow, uneventful affair on a frosty pitch enlivened only by the Chelsea fans chanting for Torres to give them a wave. The Liverpool striker was not here, of course -- the only player in the guest seats was Gary Neville watching his brother get trampled underfoot by John Terry.
Each team had one decent chance before the interval. Marouane Fellaini's persistence won the ball from Essien and set up Jack Rodwell for a shot straight at Cech, while at the other end Nicolas Anelka was given a slightly clearer opportunity by Ramires' through ball but was unable to beat Tim Howard. It was the sort of chance Anelka normally accepts, though perhaps Sylvain Distin deserves credit for coming across quickly and forcing him to hurry his shot.
The second half was immediately better, mainly because Everton took the game to Chelsea and threw men forward in support of Louis Saha, who had been asked to do too much on his own in the first period. Saha might have scored from a Rodwell cross after Terry had given the ball away but for Ramires sprinting back to block on the line, and from a Mikel Arteta free-kick Fellaini produced a header that Cech had to tip over his bar.
With Chelsea pinned in their own half it was always likely Everton might be first to score, even if the breakthrough after just over an hour did come from a set piece. Leighton Baines sent over a measured corner from the right, and Saha found just enough space on the six-yard line to score with a firm downward header.
Chelsea could have had no complaints at that stage -- they barely crossed the halfway line for half an hour after the interval -- yet once they did they equalised with almost nonchalant ease. Cech had just saved to Coleman's header, Essien making his important cover tackle to prevent him following up, when Anelka brought the ball out of defence and played a crossfield pass that Ramires allowed to run on to Salomon Kalou. The substitute had only been on the field a few minutes, but with Everton backing off seemingly unaware of the danger, he beat an unsighted Howard with a low shot past Distin and Phil Neville.
"It was a disappointing game to lose," Neville said. "We were all over them in the second half and if Seamus had put that in we would be in the next round."
Sunday Indo Sport