There has to be patience before even an oligarch's wishes are fulfilled. Five years after buying the club, Roman Abramovich has now seen Chelsea achieve the prestige he craves. The Russian has the particular pleasure, too, of flaunting that status in Moscow, where Manchester United will stand in his way at the Champions League final on May 21.
This might have been Chelsea's anticipated destiny, considering all the funds pumped in, but it still had to be achieved in the midst of sport's uncertainty and emotion. While this game had no real distinction, its course stayed tantalisingly obscure for much of the evening. Chelsea had gone ahead while largely in command of the first half but Liverpool levelled.
The Anfield club was not to get its way, as it had in the previous semi-final encounters under Rafael Benítez in 2005 and 2007. Nor would Liverpool have deserved to do so. This encounter tipped away from them in the eighth minute of extra-time as the substitute Sami Hyypia tripped Michael Ballack as he moved across the edge of the area.
The penalty was drilled home low to the left of José Reina by Frank Lampard. That was far from being the end of the action but it was still a moment that dominated the night. Lampard was remarkable for the concentration he mustered on his return to football after the death of his mother. The midfielder had been significant too for a series of outstanding passes.
Didier Drogba was often the recipient. Benítez, who prides himself on being a strategist, had bungled in his pre-match characterisation of the Ivorian as an habitual diver. Motivational skills are supposed to be reserved for his own squad, but he had inadvertently galvanised a Chelsea forward who sometimes has a habit of trailing off into listlessness.
Drogba's concentration was unbroken here. His second goal, in the 105th minute, came as he slotted home an excellent, low delivery from the substitute Nicolas Anelka. The situation was beyond retrieval even for these opponents, despite a 35-yarder from the substitute Ryan Babel three minutes from the very end that eluded Petr Cech. There were no more miracles left in Liverpool.
Perhaps it is Avram Grant who is trading in marvels. Where his predecessor Jose Mourinho had faltered, he has come through. It is futile to argue against results. No matter how many people invoke the law of averages and argue that, at the fourth time of asking, Chelsea stood a good chance of winning a Champions League semi-final, the honour goes down on the Israeli's CV. All evidence shows, too, that the defeat of United at the Luzhniki stadium is wholly feasible.
Chelsea were the better team at the outset and while they drifted into danger later on they also rallied to regain the initiative. That was laudable in view of that fact that Liverpool, with 28 goals, troop out of the Champions League as its highest scorers this season. So much for the cliche that they are a side drilled to such extremes that spontaneity is forbidden.
If Grant's team were to take the lead, Drogba had always been the most likely scorer. Lampard nearly set the striker free after 12 minutes and Martin Skrtel intervened at a price, picking up the knee injury that later saw him replaced by Hyypia. Drogba was once more picked out by Lampard in the 19th minute and the striker should not have pulled his effort wide.
Typically for a scorer, he was to make the most of a less promising opportunity. On 33 minutes the Liverpool right-back Alvaro Arbeloa was lax and as Salomon Kalou moved on to another Lampard pass he slipped across Hyypia and forced a parry from Reina. Drogba met the loose ball with conviction to thrash a tremendous drive low into the net through the merest hint of a gap at the near post, despite the fact that Reina and John Arne Riise were in front of him.
Liverpool's level of conviction still did not waver then, but Chelsea were enlivened. A free-kick came their way in the same position where Ballack and Drogba had squabbled with one another in last Saturday's victory over Manchester United. It could be that a protocol has been agreed since then. The German was undistracted before taking it and his effort pinged against the pole behind the goal that holds up the nets.
Benítez's team are not readily deterred, of course, and Chelsea were misguided when acting as if they could see out the second half while playing passively. The Liverpool manager had chosen Yossi Benayoun rather than Babel to play from the start. There was a demonstration of sumptuous ability from the midfielder Benítez had preferred.
With 64 minutes gone, Benayoun had the tenacity and touch, as he cut in from the right, to evade Claude Makelele and Drogba before feeding a pass behind Ricardo Carvalho in the middle of Chelsea's central defence. Fernando Torres tucked it home calmly for Liverpool's first goal at Stamford Bridge since the appointment of Benítez in 2004.
The satisfaction is negligible. For other clubs, a run to the last four is an admirable effort, but Liverpool, winning the tournament in 2005 and making it to the 2007 final, have come to expect more under the Spaniard. This year it is Chelsea who have the joy of entering an occasion of a grandeur it has never known in its history.
Lampard (pen) 98
Petr Cech, Michael Essien, Ashley Cole, A, Joe Cole, J (Nicolas Anelka, 91), John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack, Claude Makelele, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard (Andriy Shevchenko, 119), Salomon Kalou (Florent Malouda, 70)
Jose Manuel Reina, Alvaro Arbeloa, Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel (Sami Hyypia, 22), John Arne Riise, Dirk Kuyt, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Yossi Benayoun (Jermaine Pennant, 78), Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres (Ryan Babel, 99)