Fernando Torres scored his first hat-trick for Chelsea in a 6-1 win over Queens Park Rangers as they celebrated reaching the Champions League final by roaring back into contention to qualify for next season's competition.
Torres and the Blues produced the polar opposite of a European hangover after Tuesday's astonishing semi-final triumph over Barcelona by burying QPR in a Stamford Bridge mudbath. It lifted them up to fifth in the Barclays Premier League, a point below Newcastle ahead of Wednesday night's crucial clash against the Magpies.
QPR's goal difference took a pounding as they stayed just outside the relegation zone. They will need to defend infinitely better to stand a chance of survival, conceding to Daniel Sturridge after just 48 seconds and allowing John Terry to make it 2-0 before Torres' treble, a goal from substitute Florent Malouda and a late consolation from Djibril Cisse.
Terry had the last laugh after his upcoming racism trial saw pre-match handshakes cancelled. Both he and QPR defender Anton Ferdinand - the man he denies racially abusing - were mercilessly targeted by opposition fans, as they had been in January's FA Cup tie at Loftus Road.
It took the home side barely a quarter of the game to make another case for interim boss Roberto Di Matteo to stay. With several players playing for a place in the FA Cup and Champions League finals, they tore into Rangers from the first whistle and Sturridge's screamer hit the net inside a minute.
QPR tried to hit back but Clint Hill was badly exposed as Terry made it 2-0 in the 14th minute. The home fans were on their feet again minutes later in appreciation of a brilliant Torres goal, the striker starting and finishing a blistering move by rounding Paddy Kenny after a superb ball from Salomon Kalou.
QPR were reeling but the fourth goal was unforgivable, a horrible mix-up between Nedum Onuoha and Kenny gifting Torres a left-foot finish he was in no mood to pass up. Another fine move almost saw Frank Lampard make it 5-0 as the driving rain was briefly replaced by glorious sunshine.
Joey Barton was finally booked and Kenny delayed Torres' hat-trick with a good save but the £50million man made no mistake to complete his first treble since September 2009, beating the offside trap to clip Juan Mata's pass into the far corner.
Owner Roman Abramovich high-fived his companions in the directors' box and he was celebrating again 10 minutes from time when substitutes Ramires and Malouda combined thanks to a Ferdinand blunder. There was still time for Cisse to drill home a consolation, but the damage was done.