LONDON Chelsea led a trio of English clubs into the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday after Tottenham Hotspur survived a thrilling Inter Milan fightback to advance on away goals and Newcastle United got a late winner.
Goals from Juan Mata, John Terry and Fernando Torres, who also missed a penalty, put European champions Chelsea through 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate after visiting Steaua Bucharest's Vlad Chiriches equalised on the stroke of halftime.
Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor pounced in extra time to score a vital away goal in their 4-1 second-leg defeat at the San Siro as they scraped past three-times European champions Inter after the nail-biting tie ended 4-4 on aggregate.
Newcastle United joined their Premier League rivals when Papiss Cisse headed the winning goal against big-spending Anzhi Mackhachkala with the last action of the game to take them through 1-0 after a goalless first leg.
Another wealthy Russian side, 2008 UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg, also went out to Basel 2-1 on aggregate despite a 1-0 win on the night after they had a late penalty saved against the Swiss team, who played the second half with 10 men.
Rubin Kazan fared better than their compatriots as they saw off Levante 2-0 in extra time to end Spanish interest in this season's competition.
Lazio's Libor Kozak scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over VfB Stuttgart for a 5-1 aggregate victory as they kept Italian hopes alive with a place in Friday's quarter-final draw.
Fenerbahce drew 1-1 with Viktoria Plzen to go through 2-1 on aggregate after a narrow first-leg victory in the Czech Republic and former European champions Benfica are also in the last eight thanks to a 3-2 win at Bordeaux for a 4-2 aggregate success.
But it was Inter's stirring comeback, spoiled by lacklustre Tottenham's vital away goal, and Chelsea's second-half display to see off spirited former European champions Steaua that lit up a fascinating night of Europa League action.
Spain striker Torres led the way for Chelsea in a rousing second half by scoring a sublime goal, his second in 19 games, and then having to deal with a bloody nose before playing on and striking a late penalty against the bar.
The way Torres and his team mates battled was typical of Chelsea at present said keeper Petr Cech in the wake of their recovery in an FA Cup sixth round tie at Manchester United.
"We are at the stage where every game is a final," Cech told ITV. "When it went to 1-1 (against Steaua) we had to score twice but at the weekend we managed to get (back from) a 2-0 deficit at Old Trafford so we believed we would get the goals.
"Fernando was working hard and he took his chance well. It's a pity the penalty didn't go in for him but we scored the three goals we needed and we're through."
Tottenham were lucky to continue their European quest after they let Inter come back at them following in-form Gareth Bale's masterclass in the first leg when he scored in a 3-0 win.
"We don't do it the easy way... well done lads," Bale, who was suspended for the Italian trip, wrote on Twitter after Spurs secured a last eight berth by the skin of their teeth.
Inter went into the match after being outplayed in last week's first leg in London but strikes from Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio and a William Gallas own goal brought them level on aggregate against a shell-shocked Tottenham side.
However, Adebayor, subjected to racist abuse by Inter fans including monkey chants and the waving of plastic bananas, got a vital goal when he slid the ball past Samir Handanovic in the 96th after Mousa Dembele's shot was parried by the keeper.
Inter levelled the aggregate score with 10 minutes of extra time remaining when Ricardo Alvarez headed in a Cassano cross but twice UEFA Cup winners Spurs held on to progress.
"We have learned massively in these two ties, against Lyon and Inter, and it's a great experience for me, the players and the club," said Spurs manager Andre-Villas Boas.
Asked about the racist abuse directed at Adebayor, he added: "It's a very sensitive situation. "It was very easy to hear the chanting so I'm sure UEFA will act on it. It's very difficult for Inter Milan because it has happened before."
Newcastle's progress was equally nervy and, despite a numerical advantage when Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez was sent off after 55 minutes, his fellow Moroccan Mbark Boussoufa hit the bar with a late free kick.
The miss proved costly as Cisse's headed finish from an inch-perfect Sylvain Marveaux cross sparked wild scenes of celebration at St. James' Park.
"I think we've put out one of the best teams in the competition," said Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.
The English teams' Europa League success contrasts with their failure in the Champions League which will not feature any when the draw is made for both competitions on Friday.
Zenit's Roman Shirokov saw his 86th minute spot kick saved by Basel keeper Yann Sommer as they failed to level the aggregate score at 2-2 after Basel had Marcelo Diaz sent off at the end of the first period for a second yellow.
Axel Witsel got Zenit back into the tie with a close range header on the half-hour but the Swiss side's 2-0 home win from last week's first leg, when they scored twice in the last seven minutes, was enough to see them through to the last eight.
"We played a great game and should have won by a much bigger margin," said disgruntled Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti, who has been under pressure to resign after a string of poor results.
Venezuelan Salomon Rondon and Vladimir Dyadun were on target for Rubin in extra time to keep Russia's hopes alive in Europe's second tier competition with a 2-0 aggregate win over Levante, who were making their debut in a continental competition.
(Additional reporting by Gennady Fyodorov in Moscow, Editing by Ken Ferris)