Arsenal will have to come from behind if they are to reach their first Carling Cup Final in 13 years.
Paul Scharner's 78th minute header ensured they left Wigan's JJB Stadium in deficit after the Semi-Final first leg on Tuesday night.
Arsène Wenger's team edged a poor first half but they were pushed back by a rejuvenated home side after the interval. Their impetus was halted by a 12-minute delay for floodlight failure just before the hour, however Paul Jewell's side shone more brightly as the game when on.
Debutant Scharner is a self-confessed Arsenal fan but he did as much as anyone to hamper the visitors' cause this evening.
However Wenger will still feel his side have the tie in their own hands when the second leg takes place at Highbury on January 24
Before kick-off, the manager named a side that showed just three changes from the one that had seen off Cardiff in the FA Cup Third Round on Saturday. Dennis Bergkamp, Lauren and Robert Pires dropped out with Freddie Ljungberg, Pascal Cygan and Quincy coming in.
There was precious little goal-mouth action in the first half. The best chance came in the eighth minute. Mathieu Flamini sent Ljungberg scuttling through but, under pressure, the Swede lifted the ball over the bar.
Despite that early effort, the game could not find its rhythm. The home side were hampered by injuries, Arsenal were employing an unfamiliar 4-5-1 formation.
Although Wigan's long ball had caused moments of consternation in the visiting defence they did not test Almunia until midway through the half. Kerrea Gilbert nudged over Jimmy Bullard on the left just outside the area and Graham Kavanagh curled a low free-kick towards the near corner. The Spaniard flung himself to his right and saved well.
Just after the half hour, Lee McCulloch hobbled off to be substituted by new signing Scharner. It was the second change that Jewell had been forced to make. Andreas Johansson had earlier replaced the injured David Connolly.
Arsenal ended the half slightly the stronger. Flamini had a shot charged down by Pascal Chimbonda and Gilberto nearly profited after Mike Pollitt had missed a high, swirling free-kick from Senderos on the left. However, in truth, there was little in it at the break.
The game had much more drive after the restart. Wigan had a greater sense of urgency and pushed Arsenal back in the opening stages.
Then their impetus was abruptly halted when the floodlights failed. The delay lasted around 12 minutes and did nothing to help the home side's cause.
Having said that, Roberts did nearly spring Arsenal's offside trap just after the restart. He played on and collided with Almunia, who needed treatment
Gradually Wigan regained their confidence and started to pepper the Arsenal area. Bullard threw in a corner with 20 minutes left, Arjan De Zeeuw nodded on and Johansson header's was diverted over the bar by Ljungberg.
The respite would be short. Eight minutes later, Chimbonda's quick throw caught Arsenal napping. Gary Teale crossed deep to the far post where Scharner converted with a towering header.
Wigan desperately searched for a second while they had their tails up. However they could not break through.
Both teams can justifiably argue this is a decent result for them. Only the second leg will reveal who is right.
- Gilbert 76
- Reyes 73
- Owusu-Abeyie 73
- Fabregas 73
- Larsson 76
- Lupoli 73
- Henchoz Yellow Card
- Connolly 23
- McCulloch 33
- Scharner 33 Goal!
- Johansson 23