Frank Lampard broke Bobby Tambling’s goalscoring club record with two second-half strikes to hand Chelsea a 2-1 win over Aston Villa and all but secure a place in next season's Champions League.
Christian Benteke's first-half strike - his 23rd of the season - gave the home side the lead on 15 minutes, before Ramires received his marching orders for a second bookable offence on the stroke of half-time.
But the Belgian went from hero to villain as he too was then sent off on the hour mark, before Lampard equalised moments later and then scored the winner to beat Tambling’s record goal haul.
Paul Lambert made one enforced change from his side’s 2-1 win at old club Norwich as Erich Lichaj replaced the injured Matt Lowton at right-back.
The visitors, however, made a raft of changes as skipper John Terry, Lampard and Victor Moses all came back into the starting line-up for Chelsea’s 67th game of an exhausting campaign, while Demba Ba replaced Fernando Torres up front.
But it was Benteke, not Ba, who grabbed the early limelight as a moment of brilliance marked an end to a cagey opening 15 minutes. The Belgian took up possession near the halfway line and charged into the penalty area, brushing past Gary Cahill and sliding a composed left-footed finish inside Petr Cech's near post.
Benteke celebrated his 14th goal since the turn of the year by unveiling a tribute to the recently retired former club captain Stiliyan Petrov, as the crowd applauded from the stands in the 19th minute as Villa Park.
Back on the pitch, the hosts' superiority had begun to diminish. Lampard offered a threatening warning when Villa's player of the year Brad Guzan had to parry his driven free kick onto the post after 29 minutes.
But the home side had Premier League safety firmly within their sights and Benteke almost broke free for the second time 11 minutes later, with Terry bringing him down to earn himself a booking.
And the Chelsea captain was then followed into the book by Ramires, with the Brazilian's high foot earning him his second yellow; the visitors were down to 10 men before half-time.
Rafael Benitez’s response was to bring David Luiz on for the ineffectual Moses. Yet if anyone was making a difference after the break, it was Gabriel Agbonlahor, whose phenomenal pace down the left was causing Chelsea all sorts of trouble.
Disaster struck for the Villans on the hour mark, however, as yet another high-footed challenge saw Benteke receive his marching orders for a second booking.
And Lampard made them pay moments later, holding off the attentions of Nathan Baker to curl a superb strike past Guzan for his 202nd Chelsea goal.
Cahill then saw his header to be cleared off the line by Ashley Westwood before Villa's American shot-stopper was tested by a Luiz free kick.
But there was only one man who would score the goal that would effectively clinch the Blues' place in the top four - and that was Lampard, who netted with a characteristically clinical finish to break the 33-year-old record and write his name into the club's folklore.