It all seemed too convenient – and that’s because it was.
When Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford put the ball out in the 26th minute, Chelsea’s “captain, leader, legend” and No.26 John Terry slowly made his way to sideline.
His team-mates made a guard of honour as the defender spent his final moments as a player at Stamford Bridge in tears.
His heir apparent – or replacement for much of the season – Gary Cahill was handed the captain’s arm band and the game of football was allowed to resume.
And it was all planned, relegated manager David Moyes admitted.
“We knew it was coming, and we agreed to put the ball out,” revealed Moyes, who may have been in charge of his last Black Cats match.
The Scotsman the revealed the potentially surprising player who orchestrated the occasion.
“It was Diego Costa that actually asked Jordan to kick the ball out,” he said.
Sunderland had earlier given the Chelsea team, lead by Terry, a guard of honour before the start of the match.
Sunderland were also the opponents two seasons ago when Terry lifted the Premier League title under Jose Mourinho.
Terry played every minute of that campaign – a feat Cesar Azpilicueta has now emulated – but made just his sixth start of the season here.
It was his 717th appearance and 580th as captain and felt, initially, like a testimonial, as Conte reverted to his first-choice line-up, with the exception of Terry.
Chelsea appeared to be caught up in the festivities as Sunderland took a third-minute lead.
Sebastian Larsson’s free-kick ricocheted off the wall to Manquillo, who was in space and blasted the ball into the roof of the net. Terry was the closest Chelsea player in attendance, but could do nothing about it.
Chelsea swiftly responded. Marcos Alonso curled a free-kick onto the angle of post and bar and Chelsea reclaimed possession before Willian eventually blasted past Pickford in the eighth minute.
It was 1-1 when Terry went off and Chelsea didn’t take the lead until after the hour mark through Eden Hazard.
Then the floodgates opened with goals from Pedro and a late double from Michy Batshuayi wrapping up their season 5-1 ahead of their trophy celebrations.