They came to boo Rafa Benitez, not to praise him, and when finally Stamford Bridge did roar their disapproval at the club's new manager they may even have surprised themselves with the fervour of it.
It was a quite remarkable response to the arrival of a new man at this or any club, one that had been brewing all afternoon and was delivered just seconds before kick-off when Benitez finally arrived by the side of the pitch. There had been banners and grumblings and talk of a protest but the moment that all the frustration came out was a spontaneous howl of anger.
When it came to the homemade 'Rafa Out' banners dotted around Stamford Bridge, which were of varying standards of design, the new Chelsea interim coach asked the question: "How many people do you need to write a banner? Maybe one, and two to hold it up." It was a reassuring sign that he has at least not lost his sense of humour.
Fernando Torres put in more of a shift than he did at West Bromwich Albion last weekend but still looked lacking in confidence and clunky with his touch. He struck a shot over the bar just after the hour and that was as close as he got. It was the first time Chelsea had failed to score in a home game this season. They had one shot on target.
As for the champions of England, this was a game that was there for the taking in the first half and they missed their opportunity. Roberto Mancini declared himself dissatisfied with the point and bemoaned his team's inability to create chances in the last 20 minutes of the match. The big guns like Yaya Touré and Sergio Aguero did not rise to the occasion, although the defence was reassuringly solid.
As the game drew to a close, the stadium announcer read out the attendance and thanked the crowd "for their support". It is a sign of how closely football adheres to its rituals that no one thought to leave that bit out given the to-do before the game. Benitez himself shot off down the tunnel at full-time, no doubt glad to get it over with. If this is the home crowd being supportive, he would hate to see them on a bad day.