The fall guy of the piece was Robert Huth who gave away the ball for Darren Bent's equaliser and struck his penalty close enough to Stefan Andersen for the Charlton goalkeeper to palm away. When the pile of red shirts that had descended upon Hughes after his match-winning penalty had cleared, when Mourinho had led his team down the tunnel all that Chelsea had lost was their right to defend the trophy they won in February. The rest, however, have gained a measure of hope.
Mourinho altered his team to fit the importance of this competition but it was still a Chelsea side that, by its manager's admission, was good enough to beat Charlton Athletic. Like so few teams who fall a goal behind at Stamford Bridge, however, Alan Curbishley's side refused to give in - and their equaliser to John Terry's 41st-minute header invited an increasingly desperate Chelsea response. They may not have started with all their most celebrated names on the pitch, but Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Joe Cole were there by the end.
As Huth had a double shot blocked among the Charlton penalty area traffic with 22 minutes of extra time played, as Lampard's overhead kick sailed over. Curbishley said that he surveyed his penalty-taking options and realised that most of his best had been substituted. "Bent said he wanted the first and Bryan was confident enough to take the last," he said, "it was filling in the three in between that was difficult."
They were Jay Bothroyd, Matt Holland and Hermann Hreidarsson and none of Charlton's five let their manager down. It was when Huth stepped up to take the second of his side's five penalties that the great blue beast that is devouring the record books quivered for the first time and the German, whom Drogba described in the match programme as the club's best penalty-taker, had his shot saved.
History will record a draw but for a man as addicted to competition as Mourinho this will represent the end of a remarkable run at Stamford Bridge. Beyond that, this was his last domestic defeat since the loss to Newcastle United in the FA Cup in February and the exit from the Carling Cup is the only blemish on this season apart from the Champions' League draw with Liverpool and Sunday's Premiership stalemate at Goodison with Everton.
The Chelsea manager said that he had "no complaints" about the performance of his players and maintained that he had not been plunged into one of those moods where "you want to go into your dressing-room and kill half a dozen".
Mourinho could just about bring himself to congratulate Charlton on a famous victory but as he contemplated the siege his team had laid to their goal in the closing stages added that he thought the conquerors of Stamford Bridge "were lucky". Mourinho said: "They defended everything and fought hard and took the game to penalties. Once you reach penalties it comes down to the goalkeeper, a mistake by Robert and anything could happen. But I have no complaints about my players. We faced the game seriously. I played that team because I felt some of my players deserved to play and other deserved a rest.
"We prepared properly for this match, we took it seriously and we practised penalties this week. Each player took eight penalties and Robert scored all eight against three different goalkeepers."
After an 11th-minute shot from Paulo Ferreira had been beaten away by Dean Kiely in Charlton's goal and Hernan Crespo had looped a header just shy of the post from Arjen Robben's cross - it fell to Terry to open the scoring with four minutes left in the first half.
The rearrangement of the Chelsea captain's nose by Everton's James Beattie on Sunday did not prevent him from out-jumping Hughes and directing a header in for his first goal of the season.
As the fourth official raised the board to indicate a minute's injury time, Mourinho had already disappeared into the tunnel when Luke Young sent a harmless header over the Chelsea back four. Huth stooped to direct it back to Carlo Cudicini and barely grazed his forehead on the ball. Chasing behind him, Bent needed only one touch to direct his ninth goal of the season past the stranded Cudicini.
By the end, Mourinho had unleashed the full might of his substitutes' bench upon Charlton but Curbishley's side refused to buckle. Danny Murphy was outstanding in midfield, behind him Hreidarsson and Talal El Karkouri kept the champions out - after that, holding their nerve in the penalty shoot-out seemed like the easy part.
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cudicini; Ferreira, Terry, Huth, Bridge (Lampard, 60); Essien; Wright-Phillips (Cole, 60), Geremi, Gudjohnsen, Robben; Crespo (Drogba, 83).
Substitutes not used: Cech (gk), Diarra.
Charlton (4-5-1): Andersen; Young, Hreidarsson, El Karkouri, Powell; Rommedahl (Thomas, 64), Holland, Murphy (Kishishev, 82), Ambrose (Bothroyd, 73), Hughes; Bent.
Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Spector.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
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