By Richard Clarke at Madejski Stadium
Stunning, simply stunning.
Arsenal stormed back from 4-0 down after 37 minutes to beat Reading 7-5 in extra-time to reach the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup for the 10th successive season.
Jason Roberts, Laurent Koscielny's own goal, Mikele Leigertwood and Noel Hunt gave the home side an incredible advantage early on.
Theo Walcott stabbed home a lifeline in first-half injury-time and substitute Oliver Giroud grabbed a second midway through the second half.
But Koscielny's third came with only a minute to go and the first real drama came when Walcott fired home a breathless equaliser with seconds of injury time left.
There would be plenty more.
Marouane Chamakh and Pavel Pogrebnyak swapped goals in extra-time as penalties loomed.
But Walcott thumped home his third in the 120th minute and Chamakh completed the job with a cute lob in injury-time of extra-time.
It was one of the most incredible games this reporter has seen in 15 years of covering Arsenal and a lifetime supporting them.
After a wretched start like that, you would have been proud just to make it a close game.
Winning, losing it and winning again was very, very, very special.
The spirit of this side simply should not be questioned.
Wenger's team was the usual mix of the first-team players and youngsters. The only starter from the weekend was Giroud, who began on the bench.
The centre forward was Chamakh; the first time the Moroccan had began a game since the FA Cup tie against Leeds on January 9.
Supporting him on the left flank was Serge Gnabry, who was making his first start for the Club. Walcott was on the right and Andrey Arshavin in the 'Cazorla' role behind the front man.
The re-fashioned side never found cohesion in the first half this evening and the result was horrid. Make no mistake, Reading were direct and utterly dominant but, in addition, nothing went the visitors' way.
The only good fortune came in the third minute when Sean Morrison met a corner from Nicky Shorey with a powerful header. It bounced off the inside of the post, hit keeper Damian Martinez on the head and ricocheted away to safety.
Reading seized the opportunity to pressurise a tentative Arsenal side and they snatched the lead in the 12th minute.
Jay Tabb fed Noel Hunt on the left-hand side. His pacy, low cross was rammed home by Roberts, who popped up at the far post after drifting away from his marker.
Six minutes later it was 2-0. Gareth McCleary released Chris Gunter on the right and his cut-back was deflected in at the near post by the unfortunate Koscielny.
Reading added another immediately. Arsenal failed to clear their lines from a corner and Leigertwood was allowed time and space to fire in a cross-shot. Martinez got a full hand on the shot but he failed to stop it going in.
Both sets of fans were shell-shocked but, creditably, the 4,000 travelling Arsenal fans responded with noise. Their team came back too.
For the first time in the game, the visitors started to have a semblance of midfield control. They began to get their passing going but could not breakthrough a Reading side that had gone into their shell.
However, when they did go forward, the home side were still dangerous. Eight minutes from half-time, they grabbed a simple fourth when Gunter's piercing right-wing cross was nodded home by Hunt at the far post. Again the ball went in off the woodwork.
Arsenal desperately needed a goal before the break. Francis Coquelin fed Chamakh but his shot was saved, Koscielny failed to convert from a corner and Gnabry darted inside before seeing a promising shot blocked.
In injury time, they grabbed a goal. Arshavin fed Walcott with a perceptive throughball. Walcott raced clear and clipped home his fifth goal of the season.
If anything the goal acted as a red rag to a bullish Reading side. They went at Arsenal at the start of the second half. They forced the ball home early after fouling Martinez at the far post then Roberts beat Koscielny and Liegertwood fired over.
However Arsenal would storm back.
Arshavin fed Walcott again but this time, with the angle tight, he fired into the sidenetting. Then Chamakh claimed a penalty after Gunter appeared to handle. Finally Jenkinson's low cross was nudged agonisingly wide of the far post by the sliding Walcott.
It brought immediate dividend when Walcott's corner was turned home by the head of the Frenchman at the near post.
In the 71st minute, Giroud almost grabbed another when his cross-shot was unconvincingly pawed away by Adam Federici. Shortly afterwards the Australian redeemed himself with a low save from Giroud's angled header.
After that, Arsenal could not maintain their required intensity. Giroud was the visitors' best outlet but it seemed that Wenger's men would struggle to complete the revival.
But the drama would be late and, frankly, incredible.
Koscielny nodded home from a corner with a minute of normal time left.
And, then in stoppage-time of extra-time, a ‘Hail Mary' of a ball forward was collected by Walcott and his shot was poked off the line to Jenkinson who thumped home from close range. The assistant referee had flagged that the England international's effort had gone already in.
When extra-time began, the visitors were naturally on a high. Reading seemed spent and Arsenal looked to take advantage.
Two minutes before the end of the opening half, Chamakh fired the visitors in front for the first time in the game. His last Arsenal strike had come in the 4-3 defeat at Blackburn at the start of last season.
Wenger's men now seemed in control and Walcott should have ended in the argument at the start of the second half but he could only meekly sidefoot into the arms of Federici. It would prove crucial as four minutes from the end Reading somehow stole an equaliser with a header by Pogrebnyak.
But Arsenal were not done. They never were this evening.
Walcott thumped home from close range in the last seconds and, with Reading chasing the game, Chamakh chipped the stranded keeper.
As I said at the start... stunning, simply stunning.
- Martinez Yellow Card
- Miquel 105 Yellow Card
- Djourou (C)
- Koscielny Goal! Yellow Card
- Frimpong 62
- Gnabry 62
- Walcott Goal! Goal! Goal!
- Chamakh Goal! Goal! Yellow Card
- Meade 105
- Eisfeld 62 Yellow Card
- Giroud 62 Goal! Yellow Card
- Gorkss (C)
- Morrison Yellow Card
- Leigertwood Goal! Yellow Card
- McCleary 74
- Roberts 90 Goal!
- Hunt 74 Goal!
- Le Fondre
- McAnuff 74
- Pogrebnyak 74 Goal!
- Church 90