Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas saluted his players' spirit after they lifted the gloom of a traumatic few days with a gritty 2-1 win over Everton in the League Cup fourth round.
The Blues have had to deal with the fall-out from a stormy 1-0 defeat at QPR on Sunday, which included allegations that England captain John Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand and a ferocious rant at referee Chris Foy from Andre Villas-Boas that could lead to a fine for the Chelsea boss.
Terry, who is the subject of an FA investigation into the alleged incident, was missing from Chelsea's squad at Goodison Park, but his absence couldn't detract from a dramatic match. Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka missed a penalty before the visitors went ahead through Salomon Kalou after an error by Everton goalkeeper Jan Mucha.
Everton squandered a penalty of their own when Petr Cech came on to save Leighton Baines' spot-kick after goalkeeper Ross Turnbull was sent off, but Louis Saha equalised late on to send the tie into extra time. Everton's Royston Drenthe also saw red in extra time before Sturridge settled the fourth round tie after 116 minutes.
Villas-Boas, whose first-choice side were reduced to nine men at QPR after the dismissals of Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba, said: "We were very committed, we showed resilience and strength of character once again.
"We went down to 10 men, unfortunately, once again and made things even more difficult but we were able to triumph in difficulty and these are good signs for us. We got one of the most difficult draws, Everton away with one of their strongest sides.
"They showed they wanted to go through this phase but we were able, not only to play good football, but show good commitment at desire. It shows we are progressing and it is very satisfying for everybody."
Villas-Boas, who would not answer questions about Terry's situation, admitted his side were hanging on in the closing minutes of normal time. "Everton had the desire and motivation, they were on top and we had to hold on until extra time arrived," he said. "What satisfies more is the talent came out in this situation and when the numbers got even they found better spaces and we got the goal we wanted."
Everton boss David Moyes felt the result was harsh on his team but was not looking for excuses. "I don't think we deserved to lose. Certainly over 90 minutes we should have won the game," he said.
"We have only got ourselves to blame for not winning it in 90 minutes. It is one of those things that happens. Someone has got to win, someone has got to lose and we lost this time.
"When it was 11 v 10 I thought the worst we were going to get was a penalty shoot-out. When it went to 90 minutes, both teams looked really tired but I thought the boys did well."