By Richard Clarke
Cometh the hour, cometh the Iceman.
Dennis Bergkamp has a maximum of seven games left before he calls time on his illustrious career. The 36-year-old Dutchman is held in such esteem that the Highbury faithful wanted Supporters' Day to be dedicated to the legendary striker.
You always sensed this very special player would live up to the occasion.
And in the penultimate minute of a tense, at times fraught game, Dennis Bergkamp capped Dennis Bergkamp Day with a trademark curler form the edge of the area.
However this goal was no garnish to a simple victory. It finally put paid to a spirited West Brom side and secured a vital three points.
For much of the afternoon, Arsène Wenger's side had appeared to be strolling to victory. They lightly peppered the West Brom goal with shots in the first half and finally took the lead a minute from the break when Alexander Hleb exchanged passes with Thierry Henry and thumped a shot into the top corner.
At this point it all seemed so simple for Arsenal and few were surprised when Wenger withdrew his top scorer with 20 minutes left. However, almost immediately, Nigel Quashie beat Jens Lehmann from the edge of the area.
Robert Pires stabbed Arsenal back in front straight away with a close range strike. Then the man himself added that finishing touch.
Tottenham won at Everton and remain four points ahead of Arsenal with just four games left. However Martin Jol's side host Manchester United on Monday and then come to Highbury on Saturday. Those two games will surely decide who will be North London's top side. Blackburn may still have a say, but that team is likely to qualify for the Champions League too.
Wenger made five changes from the side that had been pegged back at Portsmouth on Wednesday. Johan Djourou, Emmanuel Adebayor, Alex Song, Freddie Ljungberg, and Sol Campbell missed out. Only the first two retained a place on the bench. The replacements were Emmanuel Eboue, Gilberto, Robin van Persie and Hleb.
That draw had left Arsenal with no margin for error in the race for fourth place. Arsenal started this game intent on making totally sure of victory this afternoon.
In the fourth minute Van Persie's through ball found Diaby in right hand channel. The French youngster had scored his first goal in the last game at Highbury. The strike did not seem to have give him much confidence because this afternoon he chose to square when should have shot. It was a waste.
Mathieu Flamini and Diaby then chanced their arms from distance as Arsenal started the game with a spring in their step.
West Brom responded with a couple of efforts of their own. In the 11th minute, Quashie robbed Gilberto and fired just wide from distance then Neil Clement cracked a free-kick just over the bar.
But generally the tide was flowing against the visitors.
In the 22nd minute Gilberto's pass was touched on by Diaby and found Van Persie on the edge of the area. He slipped but recovered to find Henry on the left of the area. He laid the ball back into the path of Reyes but the Spanish striker's shot was deflected wide.
Henry was starting to find space. His best opportunity came just before the half hour, Gilberto sent him away with Clement in pursuit. The Frenchman's pace took him clear but his flick past Tomasz Kuszczak drifted just wide.
It seemed just a matter of time. Six minutes from half time, Hleb cleverly set Van Persie free and the Dutchman's whipped far-post cross was met the sliding Gilberto. The Brazilian shot straight at the keeper.
With a minute left, the breakthrough finally arrived - and it came from a rather unexpected source. Hleb picked up the ball on the edge of the area, exchanged passes with Henry and fired high into the top corner of the net from an acute angle. It was a superb finish from a player that has seemed shot shy at times this season.
There seemed little change after the break and, early on, Curtis Davis had an emergency to deal with. Clement's backheader failed to reach his own keeper and the former Luton centre back had flick the ball away from the onrushing Van Persie.
On the hour, Henry slid in to win the ball from Clement on the byline but his cut back was intercepted just before it reached Van Persie.
It would be the Frenchman's final act of the game, he was replaced by Adebayor in the 62nd minute. The Frenchman was not hobbling so it is safe to assume this was done with one eye on Wednesday's Champions League tie with Villarreal.
By that time Robson had brought on two ex-Arsenal stars Junichi Inamoto and Kevin Campbell with another, Kanu, being one of the players to make way.
In the 70th minute, Gilberto might have made the game safe if he had converted a header at the far post. It would prove to be a costly miss.
But a minute after Bergkamp had come on, West Brom equalised. A long punt forward ricocheted off Philippe Senderos and Quashie beat Kolo Toure before thumping the ball low into the bottom right-hand corner of Lehmann's net.
The match was level for less than five minutes.
Adebayor sprinted forward on the right hand side. He cut the ball back for Pires whose shot was spilled by Kuszczak. Bergkamp picked it up and cleverly cued up the Frenchman once more. He scored at the second attempt.
Finally West Brom's resistance seemed to be over. Something Bergkamp confirmed with a beauty one minute from time.
- Hleb 71 Goal!
- Persie 71
- Henry 62
- Pires 71 Goal!
- Bergkamp 71 Goal!
- Adebayor 62
- Wallwork 80
- Gera 63
- Quashie Goal! Yellow Card
- Kanu 59
- Carter 80
- Inamoto 63
- Campbell 59