There are always days in relegation battles that can be seen as decisive, just as there are moments in title races that put a team in the driving seat or all but out of contention. On this day in 2010, both of the above happened. After the game Wigan Athletic had three points that virtually secured their safety for another season, while Arsenal, already needing a huge slice of fortune, would now require a miracle.
Before the two sides took to the field at the DW Stadium, Wigan were 16th in the Premier League table and still well within touching distance of Hull City, who were four points back in 18th. This was one of the games that looking ahead at the fixtures not many Latics fans would have put down as three points. This, however, was Arsenal's game in hand and their chance to remain in the title race - a victory would have put them three points behind Chelsea and two behind Manchester United.
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It meant that all the pressure was on the London side in this clash, and with an as usual depleted squad from injuries not many were relishing this encounter. Manuel Almunia, Thomas Vermaelen and Denilson, usually regulars in the team, were all out and replaced by Lukasz Fabianksi, Mickael Silvestre and Craig Eastmond, while Robin van Persie only made the bench.
Although the Gunners were not at their best, it did appear that the remnants of the previously strong squad had just about enough to beat Wigan. Arsenal simply had to follow up Tottenham Hotspur's win over Chelsea the previous day with a victory of their own and, although they started nervously, grabbed the opening goal with just four minutes of the first half remaining. Nicklas Bendtner played in Theo Walcott, who finished tidily for what looked a huge goal at the time.
Wigan had had their chances, however, and twice could have taken the lead before the first goal. First Fabianski was unconvincing from a corner and missed the ball before Mario Melchiot headed wide, and then more slack defending allowed Charles N'Zogbia, but he tamely shot wide. Just after the break, though, Arsenal had a cushion. Samir Nasri's corner was all too easily met by Silvestre, who headed in to big celebrations.
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The Gunners' performance to this point probably did not warrant a 2-0 lead, but even so Wigan had not produced a great deal that suggested they could take anything from this game. The home fans, too, did not have a lot to be excited about as even when Ben Watson side-footed the ball home from a Hugo Rodallega cut-back with 10 minutes to play, there was not a great deal of noise from the crowd who assumed a mere consolation.
How wrong they were, and also Arsenal's premature celebrations. Even with Wigan's further increased urgency after their goal, the equaliser did not arrive until one minute from the end of normal time - and it was one of Arsene Wenger's replacements, Fabianski, who was to blame. He had already had an edgy game before he fumbled at a corner to allow Titus Bramble in for a gift of a header and the equaliser.
Wigan were not done there, and deep into injury time they snatched a remarkable three points from a game that, on 80 minutes, looked to be fizzling out into a routine away win. The winner was N'Zogbia at his very best as he, with 94 minutes on the clock, fired a shot from just outside the box right into the top corner amid scenes of delirium from the hosts and disbelief from the Gunners.
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