Richard Buxton: Blues finally fight for boss Mourinho
Willian's late winner could be the moment Chelsea turn the corner
(Aleksandar Dragovic 34-og, Willian 83)
DYNAMO KIEV 1
(Aleksandar Dragovic 77)
Fortune is finally favouring the fallen and, for Jose Mourinho, just in the nick of time.
As chaos and conspiracy engulf Chelsea, a chink of light glistens at the end of this darkest of tunnels.
Belatedly, the players said not to be playing for him finally stepped up to the plate in the 2-1 Group G win over Dynamo Kiev yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Mourinho has never truly stared down the barrel as he does presently.
His admiration for Sir Alex Ferguson will now, perhaps, include a greater appreciation of the accomplishment of the Manchester United legend in turning around his own tenure from a state of abyss.
Chelsea's latest incumbent would not be afforded a similar three-year stay of execution to arrest their current tail slide but, in Willian's decisive free-kick, Mourinho may have found his Mark Robins moment - a watershed from which to clamber back from the brink.
That 83rd-minute goal could not just provide salvation for Chelsea's season but also their beleaguered manager.
It was poetic that the former Shakhtar Donetsk playmaker delivered the final act; not least for the narrative of putting one-time foes Dynamo to the sword.
In a campaign where opposing players have contributed more to the English Premier League champions' goal tally (four goals) than Mourinho's own players, Willian's fifth goal ended that dubious honour.
The Brazilian has regularly proved an exception of the rule at Stamford Bridge.
Snared from the clutches of Tottenham Hotspur, the attacker is now Chelsea's top scorer and has seen off the threat of Pedro Rodriguez - whose arrival from Barcelona signalled a potential death knell to his time in west London - by becoming a clinical set-piece specialist.
His emergence as a rare key constant has offset Eden Hazard's current fall from grace.
There were times that Mourinho's potential last stand was more akin to a vigil; with his family stationed behind the home dugout and supportive chants continually emanating from the Stamford Bridge crowd.
He continued the theme of solemnity with a rare subdued demeanour.
Grandstanding and pontificating to match officials took a backseat in favour of a simple and emotional acknowledgement of gratitude to those inside the stadium that continue to have his back.
For those brief moments, the man who was once free to swagger and snipe his way to the pinnacle of European football with little opposition appeared to finally be in tune with his own mortality.
He knows how close he has teetered on the point of no return this season.
But that epiphany and the continued vocalism of support will count for little with Roman Abramovich should Chelsea fail to build on this long-awaited lifeline.
Sentiment carries little, if any, currency with the ruthless Russian.
He jettisoned fans' favourite Roberto Di Matteo just five months after guiding the club to Champions League glory and appointed Mourinho's adversary Rafael Benitez as the Italian's successor against the supporters' wishes.
Taking the decision to pull the trigger on the Special One himself for a second time would require little hesitation.
While qualification for the Round of 16 remains very much within reach, Mourinho's current respite may extend beyond the upcoming international break.
Yet one swallow does not make a summer - just as there are no guarantees at Stamford Bridge under an autonomous Abramovich.
By the number
3: free-kick goals
Chelsea's Willian (below) has scored three goals from free-kicks in the Champions League, more than any other player. He is Chelsea's top scorer with five goals.
Jose Mourinho has lost only three of his 29 Champions League home matches as Chelsea boss.
Aleksandar Dragovic is only the 11th player to score a goal and an own goal in a Champions League match.