John Terry’s 700th club appearance was certainly an eventful one.
So often the rock in a Chelsea team that has won the English Premier League title four times since 2005, on Saturday the 35-year-old was at the heart of the kind of defensive nightmare that has plagued the London side’s season.
But he was also Chelsea’s hero, scoring a dramatic late equalizer in a 3-3 draw at home to Everton.
Not only did it come in the eighth minute of time added on — when the referee had called for just seven — but the former England captain was also clearly offside.
“Sometimes it goes in your favor during a season but you have to be fair — why should I deny it?” Chelsea’s interim manager Guus Hiddink conceded after the match.
“Oscar touched the ball and John was offside, but he scored a beautiful goal.
“It was in the last minute but they were celebrating their third goal in the corner for one minute, so we told the fourth official he had to add one minute and maybe something would happen — and it did.”
Everton manager Roberto Martinez was furious, as his team was denied its first win at Stamford Bridge in 21 years.
Mid-table Everton had led through Terry’s 50th-minute own-goal — he deflected Leighton Baines’ cross past his own goalkeeper — and the visiting full-back also assisted Kevin Mirallas’ spectacular strike six minutes later.
Chelsea leveled in quick succession through Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas — two players whose form has markedly improved since Jose Mourinho was sacked in December — but Everton appeared to have snatched an injury-time winner through Ramiro Funes Mori after the home team failed to clear a corner.
However, Terry — who last season became the highest-scoring defender in Premier League history as Chelsea romped to the title — notched the 40th goal of his top-flight career with a clever backheel as he ran on to Oscar’s headed flick.
“It was a heartbreaking moment for us because we deserved three points,” Martinez told reporters.
“There’s the understandable feeling of dropping two points from a game in which we had to play seven minutes of injury time, and the last action happens on seven minutes and 53 seconds and John Terry, with the final touch, is two yards offside.
“When the ball went out of play, before (Chelsea’s winner) the fourth official said time was up. But then the offside decision was as clear as you are going to see as well — it’s a major error.”
When asked if he was offside in his immediate post-match interview, Terry replied: “I’m not sure and I don’t really care. It’s my first one this season.
“It’s an important one because we are still undefeated since the manager came. We have to keep that momentum.
“Ideally, we needed three points and we are not happy where we are in the league. We need to start winning games.”
Chelsea is undefeated in seven games since Hiddink returned for his second stint in temporary charge, but has won only three of those, one in the FA Cup last weekend.
The Blues have edged six points away from the relegation zone, but still trail fourth-placed Tottenham by 14 points — meaning qualification for next season’s European Champions League may depending on winning the tournament this year.
Tottenham crushed second-bottom Sunderland 4-1 in Saturday’s early game, while Manchester City moved up to second with a 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace.
Leicester took a one-point lead after drawing 1-1 with bottom team Aston Villa, which came from behind after Shinji Okazaki’s second-half opener.
Riyad Mahrez, one of surprise package Leicester’s key players this season, then had a penalty saved — and Villa capitalized when substitute Rudy Gestede equalized with 15 minutes to play despite handling the ball in the buildup.
Third-placed Arsenal can reclaim the lead at Stoke on Sunday, when Liverpool hosts arch-rival Manchester United in a match that could have a big bearing on both teams’ European aspirations.