The resurgent Blues teed up a fifth-round clash at home to Championship promotion-chasers Leeds after rebounding from shocking successive defeats by Liverpool and Wolves in some style, brushing aside the Premier League title contenders in their own backyard to ease the mounting pressure on their under-fire boss.
Stand-in captain Conor Gallagher emphatically side-footed his first goal of the season into the top corner to give Chelsea a surprise early lead at a stunned Villa Park, with the visitors then quickly going 2-0 up inside 21 minutes as Nicolas Jackson expertly headed Malo Gusto’s pinpoint cross into the back of the net.
Chelsea absolutely dominated proceedings with a top-notch performance both in and out of possession, further adding to their lead 10 minutes after the break when Enzo Fernandez - this week forced to deny reports that he is already looking to leave Stamford Bridge - stepped up to curl a sublime free-kick beyond compatriot Emi Martinez and into the top corner after he was fouled by Youri Tielemans.
Villa huffed and puffed in the second half to little avail on a notable off-night for Unai Emery’s high-flying side, who thrashed struggling Sheffield United 5-0 at the weekend, with Alex Moreno heading their best chance of the night onto the roof of the net and the likes of Moussa Diaby and John McGinn unable to test Chelsea goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic.
That was until Diaby grabbed a consolation during a spirited stoppage-time rally, sweeping in fellow substitute Jacob Ramsey’s cut-back from the byline off the post from just outside the box to deny Petrovic a hard-earned clean sheet.
But it was much too little, much too late from the Villains with Chelsea sailing through on the back of arguably their best performance of the season at a pivotal time, though they will now have to check on knocks sustained by both Moises Caicedo and Benoit Badiashile late on in the Midlands.