Luis Suarez stole the headlines six minutes into injury-time with a header to earn Liverpool a point on Rafael Benitez's return to Anfield.
It had looked as though Benitez would leave with three points after Eden Hazard restored Chelsea's lead with a well-taken penalty following earlier goals from Oscar and Daniel Sturridge.
But Suarez had other ideas. The Uruguayan had handballed to concede the penalty and was involved in an unsavoury altercation with Branislav Ivanovic, but right at the death he did what he does best - score goals.
Suarez is the first Liverpool striker since Fernando Torres to score 30 times in one season.
A game was preceded by much hype amid the return of Benitez - but the first period failed to live up to expectations.
The first real chance of the game fell to Chelsea old boy Glen Johnson, who toe-poked into the hoardings after good play from Suarez.
The masked Torres was given a first sniff of goal on 11 minutes when he was played into space right in front of a Kop that hadn't afforded him the warm reception they had Benitez. Jose Enrique recovered the situation with a diving interception.
These minor flashpoints aside, it was a laboured start, and neither side had really got going when Oscar headed the visitors in front on 26 minutes, getting a run on several Liverpool defenders to head through the diving palms of Pepe Reina.
Three minutes later - following a trip on Hazard which earned Jordan Henderson a yellow card - David Luiz stepped up to belt a free-kick at Reina. The Spaniard spilt the shot but tidied up before those in blue could take advantage.
Away from both goalmouths, Torres earned himself a booking for elbowing Jamie Carragher in the face as they both leapt for the ball - the last meaningful action of a tepid first half bar a powerful shot executed from an angle by Suarez. Cech was equal to it.
Sturridge entered the fray for the second period, taking to the field against his former employers in place of Philippe Coutinho. His impact was instant - and the game was suddenly alive.
Within 30 seconds he'd threaded a ball into the run of Gerrard, who looked up inside the box and aimed for the bottom corner only to be thwarted by the legs of Cech.
A minute later Sturridge launched the ball from 25 yards before watching it clatter the post - but he wasn't to be denied for long.
There were 52 minutes on the clock when Suarez completed a curled cross which Sturridge met to convert at the far post. The Kop went wild, but four minutes later the game took another turn when referee Kevin Friend spotted a handball inside the Liverpool box - Suarez the culprit.
Hazard took the resulting penalty and sent Reina the wrong way. 2-1.
Carragher levelled the score in his personal battle with Torres - sort of. Replays showed he barely touched his former teammate but Torres' theatrics persuaded Mr Friend to produce another yellow. Carragher let the Spaniard know exactly what he thought.
It had seemed that Liverpool's best chance to equalise had fallen to substitute Jonjo Shelvey after a wonderful touch from Sturridge, but the England U21 international dragged wide with just Cech to beat.
And then came the Suarez equaliser, as late as it was possible to be, right in front of the Kop who adore him. Sturridge was the provider, aiding his strike partner with a cross. Suarez met the ball with his head and though Cech got his hand to the ball, he could not keep it out.
Liverpoolfc.com man of the match: Daniel Sturridge.