By Rob Kelly at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal booked their place in a record 29th Emirates FA Cup semi-final after overcoming a vibrant Lincoln City side at Emirates Stadium.
It was just what we needed after a difficult few weeks - but we did not have it all our own way during a fiercely-contested first half.
Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey both went close during the opening stages, but we were indebted to Petr Cech, who made a big save to deny Nathan Arnold.
The Imps continued to frustrate us, breaking up play and denying us clear chances - until right on the stroke of half-time when Walcott slotted home from inside the box.
That goal proved to be the decisive moment in the game, and we looked a whole new side after the interval as we laid siege to the visitors’ goal.
Olivier Giroud scored the second in the 53rd minute, before an own goal from Luke Waterfall extended our advantage.
Alexis curled in the fourth goal, before Ramsey added a fifth after fine work from the Chilean in the Lincoln box.
Arsenal continued to pour forward in search of further reward, but they had to be content with their lot as they booked their place in the semi-finals.
Bring on Wembley.
SETTING THE SCENE
There was a jubilant atmosphere in the streets around Emirates Stadium, as the visitors arrived in their hordes for what had been branded ‘the Impvasion’.
No less than 9,000 Lincoln supporters had arrived en masse as their side became the first non-league team to play in an FA Cup quarter-final since QPR in 1914.
Some 53 coaches and a specially-chartered train had brought the visiting fans to north London, and they were determined to enjoy every last minute of it.
For Wenger and his side, it was something of a no-win situation. They were the overwhelming favourites to win, and win well - while anything else would be pounced upon by the critics.
The Arsenal manager had spoken of Lincoln’s “audacious” nature, and with the National League leaders bubbling with confidence and coming into the game on the back of another Premier League scalp, he wasn’t taking any chances.
It was a far stronger Gunners side than many had anticipated, with only two changes from the starting XI that had faced Bayern Munich four days earlier.
David Ospina had a slight groin issue, meaning Cech returned to the team and Emi Martinez was named on the bench, while Kieran Gibbs replaced Nacho Monreal at left-back.
Alex Iwobi returned to the squad, while Danny Welbeck had not yet recovered sufficiently from his own bout of illness to play.
The boisterous Lincoln fans raised the roof prior to kick off, and they only got louder as they saw their side make a confident start - although it was the Gunners who had the first clear opportunity.
It fell to Ramsey as he was picked out by Hector Bellerin on the edge of the area, but the Wales international’s first-time effort fizzed just wide of the near post.
Walcott was next to try his luck as he connected firmly with a corner that had been cleared to the edge of the box, only to see Farman touch it on to the post before it was hacked clear.
The pattern of the game was beginning to live up to expectations, but the Imps were determined to make life difficult for Wenger’s side.
They harried and pressed energetically, and their gameplan of taking each of their nine 10-minute segments as a separate battle certainly served them well during the first half hour here.
Arsenal were struggling to get into their stride, with the visitors breaking up play and bursting forward on the break - and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain soon had to come off with a tight hamstring to be replaced by Ozil.
Lincoln were hugely impressive, and Arnold soon had Cech at full stretch to palm his goalbound shot after the Imps midfielder had weaved his way into the box.
It was a warning to the Gunners, who were soon back on the front foot as Walcott tested Farman with a low shot inside the area that the visitors’ keeper held confidently.
Ramsey curled one wide right at the end of the half, before Walcott reacted quickest in the box to play a one-two with Kieran Gibbs and slot the ball beyond Farman.
Having made the breakthrough just before the interval, Wenger’s side came out with renewed confidence as they looked to put the tie to bed.
Gibbs was soon presented with a glorious chance after Farman tipped away a fierce Giroud strike, with Walcott centring the loose ball to the left-back, but his close-range header looped up and over the bar.
But the Gunners did not have long to wait for their second as Bellerin played a neat give-and-go in the box, before sliding the ball across to the unmarked Giroud to slot home from 10 yards out.
This was a bit more like it. Soon Bellerin had the chance to make the scoresheet himself as he won the ball on the edge of the area, but he curled his shot wide of the far post.
Moments later, we had our third as Gibbs raced on to Alexis’ ball on the overlap and sent in a low cross that Waterfall sent past his keeper and into his own goal.
Ozil was next to try his luck with a header that flew over the bar, before Alexis curled in the hosts’ fourth of the afternoon after beating two players and letting fly from 20 yards out.
The red waves were pouring forward at will, with Ramsey next to score after Alexis had twisted and turned in the box before sending in a cross that fell invitingly into the Welshman’s path four yards out.
He couldn’t miss, and he didn’t.
Alexis hit the bar during the closing stages, while Ramsey’s follow-up effort was deflected just past the post as Wenger’s men continued to pour forward.
There were to be no more goals, but this was just the sort of morale-boosting victory we needed after a disappointing run.
There will be greater tests to come, but Wembley is calling once more.
Time to dust down your yellow ribbons.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Copyright 2018 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.