Sergio Aguero scored a stunning header as Manchester City held off a spirited Chelsea side to complete a 2-1 win in a breathless FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
City looked set to meander into their second FA Cup final in three years against last year's winners when Aguero added to Samir Nasri's 35th minute opening goal when he headed Gareth Barry's cross back across goal into the net via a post on 47 minutes. It was his fourth goal in the competition in five outings.
With Nasri, Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure to the fore, you wondered why City are so far behind Manchester United in the Premier League.
But Rafael Benitez's Chelsea launched a ferocious response and could easily have forced extra-time with Demba Ba netting on 66 minutes as Chelsea dominated the final 30 minutes or so.
Ba's finish was quite magnificent, but he was denied seconds later when City's towering stand-in Romanian goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon - in for the rested England international Joe Hart - pulled off a fine stop to prevent Ba adding a second after he drilled the ball at goal from Eden Hazard's pass.
Chelsea substitute Fernando Torres could also have earned a penalty when he was clearly having his shirt tugged by City captain Vincent Kompany on 86 minutes, but referee Chris Foy was too far off the pace to be sure of awarding it at such a late stage of the contest.
The match was a terrific advert for the English game coming 24 hours after ugly scenes marred the other semi-final with Wigan overcoming Millwall 2-0 as fans of Championship side Millwall fought among each other in the stands.
Chelsea seemed to be sluggish after returning from facing Rubin Kazan in Moscow, a 5-4 aggregate win that sealed their spot in the Europa League last four on Thursday night.
Petr Cech nudged a powerful Tevez drive wide on nine minutes, but he was left helpless after the ball broke kindly for Nasri to dink the ball over the Chelsea goalkeeper after a rampaging run into the area by Yaya Toure. It was Nasri's first goal in 21 appearances and he milked the moment.
Chelsea breathed new life into their hopes when Ba swivelled to clip a volley into the net off a post from David Luiz's hopeful ball over the top.
Pantilimon was then needed to claw the ball away from the feet of Juan Mata before saving from Ba.
Aguero was also fortunate to avoid a straight red card on 79 minutes when he produced a horrid two-footed challenge on the grounded Luiz that somehow went unnoticed.
The little Argentina forward may well have cashed in from his good fortune when Yaya Toure dashed into the Chelsea area in the closing seconds to play provider, but the striker's control let him down for once even though the match had already been settled by his earlier header.
Roberto Mancini's side will bid for a second FA Cup in three years in the final on May 11 after their 1-0 win over Stoke City two years ago.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Yaya Toure - A superb example of box-to-box play from the Ivory Coast player, whose performance illustrated his standing as one of the world's finest midfielders.
Chelsea: Cech 7, Azpilicueta 7, Ivanovic 7, Luiz 7, Bertrand 6, Ramires 6, Mikel 6, Hazard 7, Mata 7, Ba 8, Oscar 7.subs: Torres 6
Man City: Pantilimon 7, Zabaleta 7, Kompany 8, Nastasic 6, Clichy 6, Milner 6, Toure 8, Barry 6, Nasri 7, Tevez 7, Aguero 8..subs: Lescott 7, Javi Garcia 7