Arsenal's hold on the FA Cup is over.
Only once in a full season under Arsène Wenger has the Club been knocked out before the Semi-Final stage. Even that defeat, at Leicester on 1999/2000 came on penalties. In total, the Frenchman has lifted this famous old trophy four times, most recently last May.
In fairness, Wenger sent out a makeshift side at the Reebok Stadium this evening but he was rewarded with a decent performance. In fact, the visitors were probably eyeing up the victory when Stelios powered home the crucial header six minutes from time.
Just before the goal Robin van Persie and Sol Campbell had hit the woodwork while Freddie Ljungberg forced the best out of Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskleainen. But, as on Tuesday in the Carling Cup Semi-Final, they were undone by a late goal from an up-and-at-'em Lancashire side.
It was less than they deserved this evening but, at the moment, fortune is not favouring Wenger's side.
The manager can only hope that luck will even itself out later in this campaign.
Wenger had 10 players out - Lauren (hamstring), Thierry Henry (hamstring), Gilberto (calf), Ashley Cole (thigh), Gael Clichy (foot), Pascal Cygan (hamstring), Cesc Fabregas (suspended), Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor (all African Nations Cup). In addition, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp were rested.
By his own admission, that left the Frenchman fielding "the rest". The defence was the most affected with Philippe Senderos, usually a centre back, switching to the left and 19-year-old Johann Djourou joining Campbell in middle. The untried pairing of Mathieu Flamini and Abou Diaby were employed in the centre of the park with Van Persie alone up front.
Arsenal were first off the blocks in this early evening game. They forced a couple of corners in the opening minutes but that pressure produced only one chance - and Diaby slashed it high over bar.
Bolton soon powered their way into the tie. In the third minute, Ivan Campo's curling free-kick pinballed off Djourou and then Almunia before bouncing away for corner. The in-form Arsenal keeper then saved adroitly from Jared Borgetti's header.
The home side continued to enjoy most of the possession and, as ever, peppered Almunia with crosses. However Arsenal's makeshift defence ensured there were few real alarms.
Gradually, Flamini and Ljungberg started to snap their tackles in midfield. It evened up the game territorially and took pressure off the visitors' backline.
When, in the 35th minute, Ricardo Gardner flicked a shot beyond Almunia's far post, it was Bolton's first real sight of goal.
Arsenal responded with Diaby having a shot deflected past the far post and then, in injury time, Reyes hacked wildly over the bar from just outside the area following a slick move on the right.
The second half took time to rouse itself. The first chance came on the hour when Gardner spread an intelligent cross-field ball to Ricardo Vaz Te, who had just replaced Campo. The striker ghosted past Senderos and raced into the area. His mis-hit shot trundled across the six-yard box and just wide of the far post.
Van Persie responded in the best possible way. In the 63rd minute, he met Ljungberg's dinked cross with a looping header which bounced off the top of the bar.
Seconds later he swivelled and sent a low, deflected shot into the side-netting with Jussi Jaaskelainen scrambling.
Arsenal were starting to create regular chances. Wenger had not changed his 4-5-1 formation but he had allowed the midfielders to offer more support to Van Persie.
In the 75th minute, the Dutchman held up the ball for Ljungberg to lash a shot goalwards from 25 yards. Jaaskelainen did well to tip the ball over the bar. The ball ran loose in the Bolton area from the corner. Senderos had a shot blocked before Campbell's effort clipped the bar en route over the bar. It would not have counted as the assistant referee had flagged for offside.
Bolton replied when substitute Matt Jansen saw his goal-bound shot blocked in the six-yard area. Still, at this stage, Arsenal looked the more likely winners
However Bolton grabbed the all-important goal six minutes from time. Kevin Davies worked hard to feed the ball back to Gardner on the left and his low curling cross was met by a thunderous header from Stelios at the far post.
The visitors could muster little in the dying minutes. That late goal had been a bitter blow, given their performance.
Shortly afterwards, Roberts grabbed that incredible late winner.
- Senderos Yellow Card
- Gilbert Yellow Card
- Diaby Yellow Card
- Reyes Yellow Card
- van Persie Yellow Card
- Campo 54
- Ben Haim
- Giannakopoulos 90 Goal!
- Davies Yellow Card
- Borgetti 73
- Hunt 90
- Jansen 73
- Vaz Te 54