John Terry must have nightmares about days like this, but then again, for many reasons, this has not been the season of his dreams. Before kick-off Manchester United had closed the gap on Chelsea at the top of the table to one point. Then, he was adjudged to have handled a fairly innocuous cross by David Bentley after only 15 minutes of this encounter for a penalty converted by Jermain Defoe. Whether he did was not entirely clear, but it certainly looked like more hand – or upper arm in truth – than head.
Radio then reported he had a confrontation with a supporter in the tunnel at half-time. To compound a bad afternoon, he was sent off after the interval for two yellow cards picked up in the space of three minutes. All this in front of Fabio Capello too, the man who removed the England captain's armband from Terry in February. Such was the fury inside Terry's head, who left the pitch gesticulating at officials, that he initially walked past the away dressing room.
The first card for Terry could have come for the handball, instead it arrived when he brought down Roman Pavlyuchenko, 20 yards out. The second was shown after he ran across to tackle Gareth Bale, and nearly removed the midfielder's legs from his torso. Phil Dowd did not even look at the Chelsea captain as he waved the second yellow and consequent red.
When asked whether Terry, his most important player, was feeling the pressure now, Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, replied: "John tried to do the best, but it was not a good day for us. John is under pressure, everyone is under pressure, nothing special, he is the captain, he's involved in this exciting race."
Prior to this game, the west London club had the joint-best defence away from home before kick off with 16 goals – along with Manchester United and Stoke. They also had the second best defence overall in the Premier League, with 30 conceded. Yet having conceded twice before half-time, was White Hart Lane witnessing the Chelsea back four unravelling, as well as hopes for their first title since 2006?
Ancelotti worked with some of the best Italian defenders of the last 40 years when playing and managing at Milan, including Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini. Often neglected in the famed Milan back four of the early 1990s was Mauro Tassotti. How Ancelotti could have done with some inspiration from that right-back for the man who started this game in that berth for Chelsea. Paulo Ferreira is not Chelsea's first choice in that position but Jose Bosingwa is injured until next season and Branislav Ivanovic is only coming back from injury.
However, half-time was the right time for Ancelotti to put Ferreira out of his misery and replace him with Ivanovic. Bale had twisted the Portugal international inside and out.
What did for Ferreira was the second goal. A straight sprint between Ferreira and Bale is not a fair fight but an experienced hand like the Portuguese should have shepherded the Wales international down the flank. However, the Spurs midfielder cut in a minute before the interval, surprising the right-back and himself by the looks of things, to score with his weaker, right foot.
After that and despite Frank Lampard's late goal, Chelsea's remaining defenders could only be grateful to Petr Cech for keeping the score down and making sure their goal difference remains three ahead of United.
They have a week to digest this loss. Terry, who will now miss the home game with Stoke through suspension, will have a little longer. He might just need it.