‘MAGIC of the Cup’ was a phrase that Hull City manager Nigel Adkins trotted out countless times during the build-up to last night’s glamour tie in the capital.
He even tweeted the same message en route to London, complete with a photo of the train taking the Tigers’ squad south from Paragon Station for this fifth-round clash with Chelsea.
By half-time, however, this excitable pre-match chatter had fallen totally flat after his side had been taken apart by the reigning Premier League champions.
Manager Antonio Conte’s men found the net four times during that one-sided first half, but it could have been many, many more.
So wretched was the defending by Hull during those opening 45 minutes that it seemed certain the Blues would inflict a new record FA Cup defeat on the Yorkshire club, eclipsing the 6-1 hammering meted out by them at Boothferry Park in 1999.
As it was, Hull improved after the break to ensure that ignominy did not materialise.
But the night still ended on a sour note as their Championship prospects potentially took a tumble courtesy of a shoulder injury for Harry Wilson, the January loan signing from Liverpool who scored on debut last weekend.
Not even being awarded a penalty early in the second half could bring a consolation for the hardy band of 1,000 travelling fans, Willy Caballero denying David Meyler with a smart save low to his right.
Little, therefore, for even a resolutely positive character such as Adkins to cling to amid the wreckage of this heavy loss.
Of course, being second-best to the champions is nothing to be ashamed about. Chelsea, on their day, are a fantastic team and their stars had the added incentive last night of knowing a decent performance could earn a crack at Barcelona on Tuesday.
But Hull’s first-half display was beyond dreadful as individual mistakes abounded and their defence was opened up at will.
As impressively as Willian, Pedro et al performed, the Tigers were also their own worst enemies with three of the four goals coming after the visitors had squandered possession through Kevin Stewart (twice) and Max Clark.
This meant there was never any chance of Hull’s desperate record in this well-to-do corner of the capital being halted as Chelsea coasted to an 18th victory from 23 meetings between the clubs in SW6.
The other five have finished level, but there was precious little hope of even that tally being added to after the hosts had taken just 106 seconds to open the scoring.
Stewart, the £4m summer signing from Liverpool, being dispossessed by Giroud was the cue for a wave of blue shirts to pour forward.
One of those belonged to Willian who latched on to the bouncing ball before curling a shot beyond David Marshall.
By the interval Chelsea had turned that early advantage into a landslide. First, Cesc Fabregas played Pedro through with a delightful pass from the centre circle and his fellow Spaniard made light work of beating the Tigers’ goalkeeper.
A third goal followed just after the half-hour, Stewart again allowing Giroud to nip the ball away from his grasp.
As with the second-minute opener Willian was the beneficiary of the former Arsenal striker’s tenacity as he finished in ruthless fashion from the edge of the penalty area.
Giroud added a fourth shortly before the interval, Emerson’s cross being turned in from close range as the creaking Hull backline stood and watched.
It was a fine finish and one that made up for the striker twice having earlier allowed inviting crosses from Willian and then Danny Drinkwater to flash across the face of goal without him adding the final touch that such clever play had warranted.
Similar let-offs followed for Hull before the break as Giroud, after being teed up by a delightful Pedro chip, volleyed inches over the crossbar and Marshall got down smartly to deny Pedro.
As the visiting players trooped off with heads down, it was difficult to believe the night could get any worse for the Championship side.
Meyler having his 49th-minute penalty saved, however, soon proved that assessment to be wide of the mark.
Not only did the Irishman’s spotkick being beaten away by Caballero deny Hull a much-needed foothold in the tie, but the foul on Wilson by Fabregas that led to the award saw the talented loanee eventually forced out of the action clutching his injured shoulder.
Jackson Irvine did threaten just after the hour, but his shot was deflected over, and Nouha Dicko wriggled through the home defence only to have his shot saved by Caballero.
Jon Toral also had a volley saved by the Blues’ goalkeeper after Meyler’s cross had been only partially cleared by Ethan Ampadu.
The Blues defender, who impressed for Exeter City against Hull in last season’s League Cup when on loan, later prevented Fraizer Campbell picking out Toral following a swift breakaway.
But it was a case of too little, too late from a Tigers perspective with all the damage having been done in that dreadful first half.
Chelsea: Caballero; Rudiger, Cahill, Ampadu; Emerson, Zappacosta, Fabregas (Scott 63), Drinkwater, Willian; Pedro (Hudson-Odoi 46), Giroud (Morata 70). Unused substitutes: Eduardo, Moses, Chalobah, Sterling.
Hull City: Marshall; Meyler, Dawson, MacDonald, Clark; Irvine (Batty 88), Stewart; Wilson (Toral 55), Evandro, Diomande; Dicko (Campbell 72). Unused substitutes: McGregor, Grosicki, Keane, Clackstone.
Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).