Liverpool suffered FA Cup final heartache as goals from Ramires and Didier Drogba gave Chelsea a 2-1 win at Wembley.
The Reds hoped to complete a cup double after their Carling Cup success but found themselves with a two-goal deficit following a disappointing first hour at the national stadium.
Substitute Andy Carroll inspired an unrelenting fight back in the final half-an-hour, but the Reds could not find an equaliser to add to his 64th minute goal.
Instead it was Chelsea who lifted their seventh FA Cup, but our third trip to Wembley this season was still a reminder that Kenny Dalglish has at least led Liverpool back into contention for silverware.
And if cup form can be replicated in the Premier League next season, happier days than this are guaranteed.
This was the 31st meeting between the sides since the start of 2004-05, a fixture cache that has given birth to one of English football's most intense rivalries: Liverpool fans singing about the club's history while their team time and again stifled Chelsea's attempts to make some of their own.
This time the Blues would not be denied.
Kenny Dalglish selected Craig Bellamy alongside Luis Suarez in attack, with Carroll on the bench. Former Red Fernando Torres also started the game from the dugout despite his hat-trick versus QPR last weekend.
Chelsea took the early initiative so that Martin Skrtel was required to make a strong challenge on Juan Mata before reading a piercing ball from Drogba.
But within 11 minutes Roberto Di Matteo's side took the lead, Mata finding possession in midfield and pinging forward to Ramires. The Brazilian disregarded Jose Enrique before sliding a finish beyond Pepe Reina.
Seconds later it took a superb tackle from Steven Gerrard to stop Mata running clear once more, while Liverpool's attacking response came by way of a Bellamy volley which was blocked near the line by Branislav Ivanovic.
Chelsea, though, were dominant. Skrtel again had to be aware to roadblock a Frank Lampard surge into the penalty area; Agger went to ground in his own box to finally halt Salomon Kalou's slalom through the Reds defence.
Drogba whacked an effort from distance as Dalglish and assistant Steve Clarke pondered in the technical area.
Their side finally sustained a period of pressure in the vestiges of the first 45, but the deficit remained as the half-time whistle blew.
Tickets had been in short supply and there were no trains, but Liverpool fans found a way to get to their destination as they always do, homemade banners providing a canvas for their Scouse wit. Not for the first time in recent years, they would be required to inspire their team to a second-half comeback if another trophy was to make its way back with them to Anfield.
There were promising signs when the game resumed: a corner, a Gerrard burst into the box, a Stewart Downing cross nodded back across goal by Jordan Henderson. No one there.
And then, with 52 minutes played, it was 2-0. Lampard navigated Jay Spearing and found Drogba in the penalty area. The Ivorian had Skrtel in his way but didn't need to beat him – he simply pounded into the bottom corner.
Suarez attempted to muster something from nothing, beating defenders before crossing towards Bellamy. Petr Cech intervened.
Carroll was then introduced, Spearing making way. But Chelsea still threatened, next through Kalou with a curled effort which never worried Reina. Drogba and Lampard also came close.
Liverpool wavered but on the 64th minute the game became a contest once more when Downing robbed possession down the left and crossed towards Carroll. Our record signing seemed to get the ball caught between his feet but he was teasing both us and John Terry. Within seconds he'd smashed into the net for 2-1.
Moments like that change football matches and suddenly Chelsea were having to contain their opponents. They feared an equaliser when Glen Johnson shaped to volley, but the full-back's effort crept narrowly wide.
Suarez forced Cech to scamper across his goal with a surprise drive to the near post, while Carroll launched a header just over the bar.
On 81 minutes Liverpool equalised – or so they thought. The players wheeled away in celebration as Carroll seemingly headed beyond the goalkeeper, but both referee Phil Dowd and his linesman allowed play to continue. Cech, they adjudged, had palmed the ball away before it crossed the line.
Both Skrtel and Carroll then had shots charged down but, this time, it was not to be for the Reds.