It took champions Chelsea to finally prove just how much Aston Villa have over achieved under the motivational leadership of manager Martin O'Neill this season.
On the ground where Villa had pulled off the most encouraging of all their many promising early season results with a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge just six weeks ago, O'Neill's men were taken apart on their return.
But, although Wednesday evening's 4-0 Carling Cup exit was an illustration of just how much the new Villa boss had previously managed to paper over the cracks this season, it may also prove an important night in the club's history.
Chairman Randy Lerner had stumped up a lot of his own hard-earned dollars to fund the 91 coachloads of noisy Villa fans who converged on the capital. But it was also a night when O'Neill will have made the new owner acutely aware of just how much more money needs spending to bring Villa anywhere near in line with the likes of Chelsea.
And it was only in defeat - and such a heavy defeat too - that, perhaps more passionately than ever before, the Villa boss emphasised his hunger to match the success Roman Abramovich's Russian roubles have brought to West London.
"We were well beaten by the strongest team in European football with a lot of class players," said O'Neill. "And, like I said a couple of weeks ago when we got beat by Liverpool, that's where this club has got to go.
"But I don't want us to be taking 20 years to compete like that. I'd like Aston Villa to be up there in the foreseeable future.
"Nights like that are chastening. It makes you realise just how far you've got to go. It even left me feeling quite pleased with the 18 points we've already got this season. But there's no point being in the game if you can't at least try to get there and that's what we're trying to do.
"It was a splendid gesture to pay for the buses, but people still put their hands in their pockets to support the team and give fantastic support. And if what the chairman did was an appreciation of their efforts, ours didn't really match.
"But it was something that the likes of Steven Davis and Gabby Agbonlahor should aspire to.
"That's where I want to go and, by God, they should have learnt some things from it too."
Within that sentiment, though, O'Neill also recognises the need for Agbonlahor to be allowed to develop at his own pace, at a time when there have even been suggestions that the Erdington express might be ready to be given a full England call-up.
In the week that Agbonlahor returns to Goodison Park, the scene of his first Villa start only in March, a 4-1 defeat to Everton which he marked with a debut goal, the adaptable 20-year-old flier once again looked Villa's best for a goal at Stamford Bridge.
Having already scored at Chelsea this season in that league game and bagged one at Anfield, Agbonlahor is making a happy habit of raising his game on English football's biggest stages.
But, despite the player forcing his way into the England Under-21 squad, O'Neill is anxious to play down comparisons with Tottenham Hotspur's Aaron Lennon, who has become part of Steve McClaren's senior set-up over the last 12 months.
"Is he close to challenging Aaron Lennon? He is a definite threat, there's no question about that.
"Even when he has a relatively poor day by his standards he is still a threat and causes teams plenty of problems.
"But I wouldn't start to heap a whole lot of pressure on him now by talking about international call-ups and stuff like that.
"He's got loads of time to develop his game and that's what he is doing. This is his first season in the Premier League, the first time he's gone consecutive games when he's not been out of the team. And he is improving almost on a daily basis.
"It is great he is getting a big run in the team and his confidence is such that he feels very much part of things. He's not looking over his shoulder, he's going out to express himself, generally playing wide and playing very well.
"He deserves to be in there and is playing terrific but we'll just leave any other talk for now.
"Gabby is a very level-headed lad, I don't think he's affected at all by things, so let's not rush him."
Villa duo Gareth Barry and Martin Laursen are likely to find out today the full extent of the injuries that brought a premature end to their night at Chelsea.
Both were due to undergo a scan yesterday and Barry is already receiving treatment for the bruising to his back inflicted by Ricardo Carvalho's knee.
But Laursen is perhaps the most anxious one, as he bids to avoid another lengthy lay-off after suffering suspected medial knee ligament damage to his right knee - not the one that kept him out almost all last season - in an accidental collision with Didier Drogba.