Fulham 3 Aston Villa 3
It needed something special to keep the fans warm in the frozen capital last night.
And Aston Villa's young Lions helped provide it as they three times came from behind to share the spoils in a real Craven Cottage Christmas cracker.
New father Liam Ridgewell's unlikely second-half double, allied to the first of Villa's three equalisers on the night from his fellow former FA Youth Cup winning team-mate Luke Moore, maintained this Merry Christmas for the Midlands' top team.
But, although Villa and Fulham could not be separated in a fearless, six-goal thriller of old-fashioned vintage, the real winner was the game of football.
On a bitterly cold night on the banks of the Thames, the last vestiges of morning snow had to be swept from the pitch before kick-off. And there was an even more ominous chill to the air when it was announced that a late change of referee meant that Andy D'Urso would be the referee.
The Essex official who used to so upset former Villa manager John Gregory is not actually on the Premiership list these days.
He has instead been downgraded to football in the lower leagues, where he has nobly responded to his demotion by clocking up 61 yellow cards and seven red ones from this season's 16 games.
That sort of strike rate from his top pocket was bound to get him noticed again. And, from the moment he was called up to fill the breach after chosen official Richard Beeby's late withdrawal after pulling a calf muscle, D'Urso was destined to play a part.
Admittedly, it was a positive sign that D'Urso officiated in two of Villa's four away wins last season - at Bolton and Southampton.
But the general pre-match mood of improved confidence came chiefly from the four goals stuck past Everton on Boxing Day once another dodgy official Mike Riley's generous assist had set Villa on their way.
With the 2-0 pre-Christmas home defeat to Manchester United forgotten, Monday's win had stretched Villa's generally improved run in the league to 11 points from their last six league games.
And Villa started an endto-end first half the brighter, only for Moore to fire over from an assist by the lively Milan Baros. But Fulham went ahead from their first real chance.
Villa failed to deal with a long punt from home keeper Mark Crossley, Luis Boa Morte slipped Tomasz Radzinski clear on the left, he dinked in a delicate cross and the unmarked Brian McBride steamed in to power home a header from six yards.
Villa had to wait until the half hour mark to get back on level terms when Moore again showed his liking for this corner of south-west London.
Back in October, he became the first player this season to score at Chelsea just up the Fulham Road at Stamford Bridge. This time he latched onto a perfect feed from Baros to confidently tuck away his third goal of the campaign.
Villa did not have long to enjoy their lead. Fulham launched an immediate counter offensive, Mark Delaney appeared to halt Radzinski with a superbly timed tackle, his outstretched leg poking the ball behind for what should have been a corner.
But, on the linesman's say-so, D'Urso, who appeared to have initially waved away Fulham's claims, inexplicably pointed to the spot. Once Baros had been cautioned for leading the protests, Heidar Helguson sent goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen the wrong way, cheekily rolling his penalty straight down the middle.
Villa had another chance to equalise when Gavin McCann somehow missed from close range, the ball cannoning via Fulham left-back Liam Rosenior onto the post. But the mounting sense of frustration was enough for Baros to continue his protests to Mr D'Urso at the half-time whistle.
It was a tirade of further abuse thankfully halted when an alert member of Villa's backroom team stepped in, but not before the knowledgeable Fulham crowd had pointed out the irony of it being Baros,of all people, who should be the one protesting at a referee's incompetence.
The second half proved just as breathlessly exciting.
Sorensen saved Villa with a brave block to thwart Helguson at close range. And Ridgewell popped up at the near post to stab home another James Milner cross for a second equaliser, despite Radzinksi's efforts to clear on the line. But, once again, Villa were only back on level terms for a minute.
Boa Morte's far-post chip picked out McBride lurking behind last man Freddie Bouma and he had the time and space to loop a header into the stranded Sorensen's top right corner.
The two-goal McBride was to turn Fulham's villain.
He wasted a chance to seal victory when he headed over. And it was his failure to cut out Milner's low left-wing cross that led to Villa's equaliser.
Ridgewell, who had just been denied by the crossbar seconds earlier, was there again to tuck the ball home again from close range.
What a way to end a memorable 24 hours for him back in his home town. And, although neither manager was bothered enough to turn up and talk about it afterwards, it also ensured a fair return from a memorable contest.