By 2004 a few of the top sides were starting to rotate in the Carling Cup, but not so Chelsea, whose new manager Jose Mourinho recognised the importance of an early-season trophy.
A rare Mateja Kezman strike took us past Championship West Ham in late October before extra-time goals from Eidur Gudjohnsen and Arjen Robben at Newcastle put us into the last eight.
A local derby at Fulham saw Damien Duff put the Blues in front before Brian McBride equalised, only for substituteFrank Lampard to send us through two minutes from time. Manchester United awaited in the two-legged semi.
Neither side was taking the competition lightly, Mourinho named a full-strength side (bar Carlo Cudicini playing in goal for cup games), and Sir Alex Ferguson recalled Wayne Rooney after suspension.
Both teams came close but neither would score in a pulsating goalless draw, meaning it was all on what happened at Old Trafford.
Lampard put Chelsea in front on the half-hour before Ryan Giggs equalised, but six minutes from time Duff curled home a winner to take us to Cardiff.
Awaiting us would be Liverpool, and the beginning of a rivalry that continues to grow.
Things didn't go to plan to begin with - John Arne Riise volleyed the Reds in front after just 45 seconds but with just over 10 minutes remaining Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard headed into his own net to take us into extra-time.
Mourinho was sent to the stands for his finger-to-lips celebration, but that would not prevent Didier Drogba from side-footing home to put us in front before the maligned Kezman finished from close range to put us firmly in control.
An Antonio Nunez header brought some late tension but we held on to the 3-2 to launch the most successful period of the club's history.
The league title would follow a few months later, but the importance of this first silverware for a talented and united squad should not be underestimated.