An unexpectedly riveting FA Cup final – the first between teams right at the top and bottom of the League – ended with blue flags flying all round the stadium. Chelsea's followers were celebrating the club's first Double and deservedly so, but Portsmouth's legions were mightily proud of their men, who ended a horrendous season with a typically defiant performance and a huddle in the pitch between a squad who will never appear together again as the club's administrator sets to work selling them off.
There has been widespread sympathy for the players and their manager, as opposed to those who have ruined the club financially, and a generous reception was offered from the Chelsea end as David James led his weary team-mates up the 107 steps to receive their losers' medals; applause redoubled for the former Chelsea manager Avram Grant, so cruelly denied at the 2008 Champions' League final.
It could not be said that Portsmouth were unlucky; not when the crossbar and post spared them an astonishing five times in the first half alone. Yet it was still possible that having somehow survived that barrage, the 12-1 outsiders could have taken the lead twice – the second occasion when Kevin-Prince Boateng's penalty was saved – and clung on for what would have been one of the most remarkable wins in the history of the competition.
Instead, as Didier Drogba struck a post again from a free-kick, the ball at last bounced Chelsea's way and finished in the net. Then there was a late piece of history with the second missed penalty in the same final, as Frank Lampard pulled his kick wide.
Lampard lost Michael Ballack as a midfield helper before the interval, the victim of a dreadful challenge by Boateng, prompting fears that he might miss the World Cup, though Carlo Ancelotti believes he will be ready. The Chelsea manager was one of those who found the experience of hitting the goal frame so often something unique. His concern was that for a while at the start of the second half, "the match was not in our control".
That was mainly down to the vigour of Portsmouth's two holding midfielders, Michael Brown and Papa Bouba Diop, disrupting Chelsea by fair means or foul – often the latter in Brown's case. Just in front of them, Jamie O'Hara, playing his last game before returning to Tottenham, typified Portsmouth's spirit this season by playing a full 90 minutes with a stress fracture of the back.
A year ago Chelsea conceded the final's fastest goal to Louis Saha within 25 seconds. Pompey's ambition during that period was merely to touch the ball, which they did, although the pattern of the game was soon set.
Portsmouth sat back and hoped to utilise the pace of Frédéric Piquionne or Aruna Dindane on the break. Unfortunately it was rare for both to be forward at the same time. When they were, amid all the mayhem at the other end, Cech was forced to make one of the saves of the season. Dindane cut the ball from the byline for Boateng, whose mishit shot was nudged at goal by Piquionne. Cech, using pure instinct, stuck out his left hand to divert the ball to safety.
If that earned the gratitude of his underemployed defenders, Ports-mouth's embraced David James for the save at the other end in the first half. It came from the free-kick, 25 yards out, that followed Boateng's crude foul on Ballack. Drogba hit one of his new-style dipping efforts which the goalkeeper just managed to put a hand on, pushing the ball on to the bar and right down on to the line. The assistant referee was in no position to judge whether it was a goal or not, but replays suggested that Chris Foy was correct in waving play on.
On either side of that, Salomon Kalou contrived to strike the bar from five yards as Ashley Cole set him up; Lampard struck the top of the post; John Terry headed against the bar; and Drogba toe-poked against the foot of a post, banging his fist in frustration against the two spots he had hit.
Chelsea were also thwarted before half-time by another of Aaron Mokoena's brave blocks. The second half was barely less eventful, Portsmouth starting it well and earning a penalty when Ballack's replacement, Juliano Belletti, carelessly tripped Dindane, who was going nowhere. Boateng hit it too straight and Cech pulled off his second notable save. "That was the key moment," Ancelotti admitted.
Within three minutes Drogba was fouled and kept his free-kick from 20 yards lower than the previous effort. It struck a post, but this time bounced in. James kept Portsmouth alive with a block from Drogba, and with his first touch the substitute Nadir Belhadj volleyed a wicked cross that Alex miskicked and Terry just touched away from Dindane's lunge.
A different sort of lunge by the provocative Brown sent Lampard tumbling, but unusually he put his penalty wide to keep Portsmouth hoping against hope until the very last.
"Everyone in Portsmouth can be proud of this team," Grant said. "It was a season I won't forget."
Bookings: Portsmouth: Boateng, O'Hara, Rocha.
Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the match: Drogba
Match rating: 8/10
Ivorian's home from home
Didier Drogba has only failed to score once in seven Wembley appearances (the 2009 FA Community Shield v Man Utd).
FA Cup finals
2010 v Portsmouth (1 goal, 59 min)
2009 v Everton (1 goal, 21 min)
2007 v Man Utd (1 goal, 116 min)
FA Cup Semi-finals
2010 v Aston Villa (1 goal, 68 min)
2009 v Arsenal (1 goal, 84 min)
Carling Cup final
2008 v Tottenham (1 goal, 39 min)
Man for man: Chelsea
Petr Cech 7/10
One of the quietest matches of Cech's season – he found time to take a throw-in – was enlivened when Piquionne mis-hit a chance into the goalkeeper's grateful grasp. In the second half he made one of the easier penalty saves, diving to his right and adjusting his legs to kick away Boateng's weak shot.
Branislav Ivanovic 7/10
With the defensive side of the Serb's game rarely tested he had ample opportunity to make several significant incursions on the Portsmouth left. Still going strong late on to set up a chance for Kalou.
Picked off Portsmouth's attempts to thread the ball through the middle and was a match for Piquionne's pace, but in truth the Brazilian centre-back could not have had many gentler matches this season as the opponents settled for doughty defence and breakaway attacks.
John Terry 7/10
Revealed as a weak link – or at least an out-of-form one – in Chelsea's back four in the past couple of months, the captain had a sound match, was not distracted by constant booing, tackled wholeheartedly and was denied a headed goal by the crossbar.
Ashley Cole 8/10
Returning to near top form, and fitness, in time for the League run-in, England's World Cup and this final, the full-back again impressed as a vibrant attacking option on the left. It was his run and cross just before the half-hour mark that saw Kalou spoon the ball on to the bar, the Blues' best chance in open play.
Michael Ballack 6/10
Strolling through the early part of the match in the role of holding midfielder, the German was able to push forward as the threat to Cech's goal ebbed away. A heavy tackle by Boateng led to his first-half substitution.
Frank Lampard 8/10
Having contributed so many goals from midfield this season, it was an eye-rubbing moment when the normally reliable marksman placed a penalty kick wide. But that was a rare blot on an afternoon of application and energy. Was the first of many to hit the woodwork, with a curling shot from distance.
Florent Malouda 7/10
Has been in fine form in the final part of the season but he did not catch the eye so readily here. However, his pace and perceptive passes were still key as Chelsea turned up the heat on hard-pressed opposition.
Nicolas Anelka 7/10
The French striker toiled hard and was a constant handful. Unfortunately, he had omitted to bring his shooting boots – at one point only one of six efforts had been on target. Not a clinical ratio.
Salomon Kalou 6/10
After 26 minutes, when Ashley Cole broke free on the left and crossed low, tapping the ball in from four yards looked one of the afternoon's simpler tasks. It was beyond Kalou. Had that chance gone in, Chelsea's win would surely have been heavy.
Didier Drogba 8/10
At one point, Drogba seemed ready to dismantle the Wembley woodwork, so frustrating had it been to Chelsea's efforts. Twice it denied him, from a thunderous shot that bounced down on to the line, and a deft flick under James. But his free-kick, thumped in off the post, made him a match-winner yet again.
Juliano Belletti On after 43 minutes for Ballack, and gave away a penalty with an ill-timed lunge at Dindane. Joe Cole On for Kalou after 70 minutes, but after seeing shots blocked by Finnan and Brown did not make an impression. Daniel Sturridge On for Anelka in the 90th minute.
Man for man: Portsmouth
David James 8/10
By far the busier of the two goalkeepers, an early save at his near post from Anelka and a wonderful tip on to the crossbar from Drogba's free-kick were the pick of a good afternoon's work. But needed several slices of luck to keep his goal intact for 58 minutes. The woodwork deserves nine out of 10.
Steve Finnan 6/10
Was slowly but surely submerged by wave after wave of attacks from the Chelsea left, with Ashley Cole and Anelka persistent threats. Unable to support Dindane on Pompey's right to any great effect.
Ricardo Rocha 6/10
Charged with the unenviable task of shackling Drogba, the Portuguese centre-back tried to plug gaps but it was a Sisyphean task as his side was forced further and further back. Given a late booking for dissent, a mark of the stress.
Aaron Mokoena 8/10
South Africa's captain gave a heroic exhibition of defending, particularly in the first half when two blocks in very quick succession denied Anelka. Flung himself at everything else that Chelsea fired at the Pompey goal. Must be hoping he can play with similar determination and spirit at home this summer.
Hayden Mullins 6/10
Under almost constant pressure from Kalou and the overlapping Ivanovic, the left-back was given some measure of the task early in the first half when Kalou escaped, but wasted the space won. Could not often find the time to support Boateng on the left.
Papa Bouba Diop 5/10
Playing just in front of the Pompey back four, the big midfielder's strong tackling was eventually no match for the speed and skill of the Chelsea midfield. An early foul on Anelka was evidence that he lacked the pace for the task ahead. Made way for Kanu late in the second half.
Aruna Dindane 7/10
Might have given Finnan more assistance by tracking back to cover the marauding Ashley Cole. In possession he was one of the liveliest threats to Chelsea that Pompey could muster, though his ball control let him down. Was certainly too quick for Belletti when winning Portsmouth's penalty.
Michael Brown 6/10
Worked hard in a midfield steadily over-run as the tempo of Chelsea attacks increased. Walked a tightrope with referee Chris Foy with an early ill-timed tackle on Lampard and the red mist seemed about to descend near the end in a challenge with Sturridge.
Kevin-Prince Boateng 7/10
Blotted his day's work with a penalty struck weakly and straight at Cech, as the second of Pompey's two good chances disappeared. In open play he fired in two better efforts, one left-footed and one with the right, from Chelsea's right, the first turning into a chance for Piquionne. Substituted soon after that penalty miss.
Jamie O'Hara 6/10
Defied a stress fracture in his spine to play and gave his all in midfield, but the on-loan Spurs man was rarely able to get forward quickly enough to support Piquionne. The injury clearly slowed him down.
Frederic Piquionne 5/10
Did not give a good exhibition of how to perform the role of lone striker and never held the ball up long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Missed a great chance to turn in Boateng's first shot, lobbing it into Cech's arms.
John Utaka On for crestfallen Boateng after 73 minutes but wasn't as effective. Nwankwo Kanu Replaced Diop after 80 minutes in a double substitution with Nadir Belhadj for Brown. The latter made the greater impact with two teasing crosses.