Reluctant to rely on another favourable refereeing decision to see them through, Chelsea responded positively this time to conceding an early goal and were pulling away from Oxford in something between second and third gear at 4-1, after their Finnish teenager, Mikael Forssell, had tested the strength of the netting with two fearsomely struck goals at the start of the second half. Red mist and a red card then overtook their captain. Wise threw himself to his left to handle a shot from Dean Windass that Ed de Goey might still have saved and Windass put the penalty away. Fortunately for the home side, Oxford then lost their midfielder Paul Tait with a head injury, the tie finishing with 10 men on either side and no further goals.
Earlier Wise had become the first Briton to register a goal for Chelsea this season. That was overshadowed by an aberration that will now mean his fifth suspension, this one for four matches. "I will be lenient with him," said Chelsea's player-coach, Gianluca Vialli, who left himself out of the side last night. "It was an instinctive gesture."
Mike Reed, the referee, ruled that the deliberate handling of Windass's shot was only a yellow-card offence. Wise, though, had already been booked and was thus sent off.
Reed's dubious decision to award a penalty against Oxford in the last minute at the Manor Ground for Kevin Francis's tackle on Vialli was worth more than pounds 200,000 to the impoverished Second Division club, but severely diminished their hopes of coming through the tie. They swept into the lead regardless after only five minutes, with a goal almost identical to the one Chelsea conceded in the first match. Once again no defender was guarding the near post as Phil Gilchrist flicked on a right-wing corner and the ball went in off Marcel Desailly's arm.
Passing and moving much more freely on their own pitch than on the Manor slopes, Chelsea were level within eight minutes and ahead by half-time, with Gianfranco Zola heavily involved on each occasion. For the equaliser, he held the ball up until Wise arrived to take possession and drive in his first goal for 11 months. In the 40th minute roles were reversed as Wise sent the Italian clear for a classic lob over a stranded goalkeeper and a goal in off the far post.
The Premiership side, beaten only three times in all competitions this season, were in no need of gifts by that stage. They received one, however, 48 seconds after the interval as Nicky Banger, turning back towards his own goal, casually played the ball straight to Forssell. The 17-year- old, on his full debut, smacked it past Jackson from outside the penalty area, and repeated the trick six minutes later, from Celestine Babayaro's lay-off.
Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Petrescu, Leboeuf (Terry, 60), Desailly, Le Saux; Morris, Di Matteo (Goldbaek, 75), Wise, Babayaro; Zola, Forssell (Nicholls, 66). Substitutes not used: Newton, Hitchcock (gk).
Oxford United (4-4-2): Jackson; Robinson, Gilchrist, Watson, Powell; Banger (Remy, 65), Tait, Gray, Cook (Beauchamp, 51); Murphy (Francis, 59), Windass. Substitutes not used: Wilsterman, Weatherstone.
Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).Reuse content