Marcus Bent came off the bench for Charlton to steal behind the Chelsea defence to notch a smart headed goal and secure a valuable point for the south-east London side.
Chelsea for their part look a side seeking inspiration when games are tight but even when down to ten men they tried to win the game - albeit with the long-ball option.
But it was the much-travelled Bent, a £2.5million capture from Everton this week, who deserved the plaudits.
Four minutes before half-time Dennis Rommedahl suffered a kick in the back and was replaced by the new striker. On 59 minutes he endeared himself to the Charlton faithful forever.
Matt Holland, a continuous thorn in Chelsea's midfield, found himself free wide on the left of the pitch.
Having collected the ball after Chelsea centre-back Ricardo Carvalho's poor clearance, Holland returned the ball behind the west Londoners' rearguard with a expert curling pass.
Bent found himself free in the centre of the penalty area 16 yards out and looped the perfect header over the advancing Petr Cech, and into the empty net.
It was no more than Charlton deserved.
Charlton had the best of the early chances on goal with Darren Bent and Darren Ambrose, both having low drives just wide of the Chelsea goal.
With Charlton playing with a high defensive line, it caught the Blues out and they were offside three times in the first 15 minutes.
But the Champions scored the opening goal and it was all due to some high-quality play from striker Hernan Crespo.
Damien Duff sent over a powerful left-sided corner. Crespo sprinted past his marker to gain a valuable yard of space at the near pot.
This allowed him to send in a glancing header on goal from eight yards out which Charlton goalkeeper Thomas Myhre did well to stop. But the ball bounced off him and into the gleeful path of Eidur Gudjohnsen who prodded the ball home from close range with his right boot.
There was some confusion about the ball being over the line after Radostin Kishishev kicked the ball clear, but the linesman took the correct decision to award the goal and signalled that to referee Steve Bennett.
Kishishev was again on hand on 38 minutes to hack off the line an Asier del Horno header.
Charlton's Bryan Hughes forced Cech into a smart save five minutes later, but that was the sum of the goalmouth action until Bent's opportunistic equaliser.
Chelsea have had an excellent disciplinary record of late but have now had two players sent off in successive games.
Arjen Robben last week against Sunderland and he was followed by Carvalho for two yellow card offences.
This forced Jose Mourinho to employ Shaun Wright-Phillips as a right wing-back for the final nine minutes as the league leaders failed to pierce the Charlton defence in search of a late winner.