A stunning last-gasp header by substitute Victor Moses secured a much-needed 3-2 win which leaves us tied at the top of Group E with our beaten opponents.
Fernando Torres had given us the lead inside the opening five minutes, but only three minutes later the highly-coveted Willian equalised for the visitors when he converted a Fernandinho cross.
Shakhtar, in truth, had been the better team for the majority of the first half, but it was the Blues who went in ahead at the break thanks to a stunning Oscar lob six minutes before half time.
All the hard work, however, was undone two minutes after the restart when Willian scored an almost identical goal to his first one to draw Shakhtar level once more.
As the Blues huffed and puffed with time running out, it looked as though the game was slipping away, but with virtually the last action of the match, Mata swung in a corner from the right, and Moses, one of the smallest players on the pitch, rose highest to head into the top corner and seal a famous win, sending the home supporters delirious.
Drama is seldom in short supply on European nights at the Bridge, and while we will now need to secure another big result away in Juventus in a fortnight’s time, our immediate attention turns towards a massive test in the Premier League on Sunday when we welcome Liverpool to west London.
The big news with regards to team selection was that John Terry, available again after completing a four-game domestic ban, started on the bench, with David Luiz, who missed the weekend draw at Swansea with an ankle problem, coming back into the side to partner Gary Cahill in the centre of defence. Branislav Ivanovic reverted to a more familiar right-back role, while Cesar Azpilicueta dropped down to the bench. With Ashley Cole unavailable due to a hamstring injury, Ryan Bertrand started his first Champions League game since the final in Munich last May. In the other changes from Saturday, Ramires came in at the expense of Oriol Romeu to play alongside John Mikel Obi in midfield, while goalscorer Victor Moses made way for the returning Juan Mata. Petr Cech once again captained the side in the absence of both Terry and Frank Lampard.
Roberto Di Matteo had spoken in the pre-match press conference about the importance of starting the game well, and the players appeared to have heeded his words when we took the lead inside the opening five minutes.
Oscar showed a deft piece of skill wide on the right to evade his marker, and as he attempted to pick out Fernando Torres with his cross, Andriy Pyatov, the Shakhtar goalkeeper, was allowed to gather.
After rolling the ball out to Yaroslav Rakitskiy, the left-back, under pressure from Torres, played it straight back to the ‘keeper, and as he hesitated in clearing, the Spaniard had made up enough ground to charge down his kick and break the deadlock.
It was the perfect start, and the goal appeared to spark Torres into life as almost from the restart he was unfortunate not to double our advantage, effortlessly skipping beyond Rakitskiy before firing at Pyatov.
The lead, however, was to last only three minutes, as with the subsequent attack Shakhtar restored parity.
Fernandinho was allowed to roam unchallenged into the Chelsea penalty area and as his cross from the right fell at the feet of Willian, the Brazilian, so instrumental in Ukraine a fortnight ago, drove his strike past Cech.
The visitors began to take control following the equaliser and almost went in front when Henrik Mkhitaryan fired narrowly wide after pouncing on a Luiz Adriano knock-down, and they were asking more than enough questions to give Di Matteo food for thought, particularly down the right-hand side.
Torres, meanwhile, went close again for the Blues, but rather than pick out the unmarked Eden Hazard he opted to shoot from the tightest of angles and could only screw his strike into the side-netting.
With so much at stake, it was perhaps unsurprising that there was a nervy atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge, and the awat side’s ability to retain the ball so well merely added to the sense of frustration.
Just after the half-hour mark, Alex Texeira fizzed a strike inches past Cech’s right-hand upright after a flowing move involving both Fernandinho and Luiz Adriano as Shakhtar sensed an opening, while at the other end clear-cut opportunities were proving elusive.
Six minutes before the break, though, we were back in front, albeit against the run of play.
As yet another Shakhtar attack broke down, Mata, who had been a virtual spectator throughout the first half, attempted to pick out the advancing Ivanovic, but as Pyatov raced off his line to head clear, the ball fell kindly to Oscar 35 yards from goal, and the 21-year-old took one touch before crashing his strike straight back over the keeper’s head and into an empty net.
It was the youngster’s fourth goal in this season’s competition thus far, most of which had been of the spectacular variety, and it had come just at the right time.
If the first half had started in the best possible fashion, the second was the complete opposite, as barely two minutes in Shakhtar equalised for the second time on the night.
The ball was worked out to the right-hand side far too easily, and Darijo Srna had plenty of time to pick out Willian who doubled his tally for the evening.
It really was a cheap goal to concede, particularly at such a crucial time, and it allowed Shakhtar to settle comfortably back into their stride.
Moments later our disappointment was almost compounded when Razvan Rat smashed an effort past Cech from distance, only to be denied by the post.
As an attacking unit, we were struggling to get going, with only Eden Hazard looking capable of producing the spark we so desperately needed.
Midway through the second half it looked as though we had restored our lead when Mikel Obi – the most unlikely goalscorer on the pitch – arrived at the far post to head home from a Mata free-kick, but the linesman’s flag was raised, a decision which was proved to be the correct one from the subsequent replays.
With the clock ticking down we began to assert ourselves in the final third, giving the Shakhtar defence more to think about.
With 17 minutes left to play Hazard picked up the ball deep inside the opposing half and fed a delightful pass into the path of the advancing Ramires, but as the Brazilian prepared to pull the trigger he was sent crashing inside the box as the home supporters appealed for a penalty.
It looked a simple decision for the Spanish referee, but he waved the shouts away to the utter bewilderment of Di Matteo and Eddie Newton in the Chelsea dugout, along with almost 40,000 spectators inside the stadium.
Mikel again went close when he volleyed narrowly wide after a Mata corner had been headed into his path, while soon after Di Matteo made his first substitution of the night, replacing the tireless Oscar with Victor Moses in a bid to inject some pace in wide areas.
The Blues forced a succession of corners in the final few minutes, realising the importance of securing all three points, but while Mata’s deliveries were generally decent, the likes of Cahill and Ivanovic were unable to get the necessary touch.
However, in the third minute of stoppage time, another stunning Champions League night at Stamford Bridge was complete when substitute Moses rose highest in the box to head home from a Mata corner and steal the win at the death.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Bertrand; Mikel Obi, Ramires; Mata, Oscar (Moses 80), Hazard; Torres (Sturridge 88).
Unused subs: Turnbull, Terry, Azpilicueta, Romeu, Marin.
Scorers Torres 5, Oscar 39, Moses 90+3
Booked David Luiz 88
Shakhtar Donetsk (4-2-3-1): Pyatov; Srna (c), Kucher, Rakitskiy, Rat; Fernandinho, Hubschman; Teixeira (Ilsinho 77), Mkhitaryan, Willian; Luiz Adriano.
Unused subs: Kanibolotskiy, Shevchuk, Chygrynskiy, Stepanenko, Douglas Costa, Eduardo.
Scorers Willian 8, 47
Booked Teixeira 56
Referee Carlos Velasco Carballo from Spain