Oh Danny boy! Welbeck header seals dramatic Arsenal comeback against Leicester
Danny Welbeck scored a dramatic last-gasp winner on his first Arsenal appearance for 10 months to beat 10-man Leicester and blow the Barclays Premier League title race wide open.
The Gunners had toiled in their attempts to beat the Foxes, who had taken the lead on the stroke of half-time through a Jamie Vardy penalty, but it was substitute Welbeck who glanced home Mesut Ozil's stoppage-time free-kick to secure a 2-1 win which moved Arsene Wenger's men to within two points of Leicester at the top of the table.
Claudio Ranieri's visitors had been reduced to 10 men when Danny Simpson was sent off with 35 minutes remaining but looked to be hanging onto a point after Theo Walcott, also off the bench, had levelled.
But Welbeck, who had not kicked a ball this season before his introduction with a little over five minutes remaining, was on hand to score a stoppage-time winner and inflict just a third league defeat of the campaign on the leaders.
Arsenal made a lively start for the first time in weeks and wanted a penalty with 10 minutes on the clock as Ozil's sumptuous back-heel freed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose cross into the box was blocked by the arm of N'Golo Kante - with referee Martin Atkinson unmoved.
Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was alert to come flying out of his box as Aaron Ramsey was played through one on one and beat the Gunners midfielder to the ball.
Leicester broke as a result and Vardy came close to opening the scoring but Petr Cech brilliantly kept out his downward header from a perfect Marc Albrighton cross.
Olivier Giroud had the ball in the net with 30 minutes gone but his header from Ozil's ball over the top was disallowed as he had just strayed offside before nodding past Schmeichel.
Danny Drinkwater picked out Kante free on the edge of the Arsenal box and the summer arrival from Caen bent a curling strike that was destined to whip into the top corner before Cech clawed it behind.
Leicester did take the lead on the stroke of half-time as Atkinson this time decided to point to the spot, adjudging Nacho Monreal to have tripped Vardy inside the box.
While Arsenal protested against the call, Vardy dusted himself off to send Cech the wrong way and send the title favourites in at half-time with the lead.
Leicester had another penalty shout early in the second half when Riyad Mahrez went down under close attention from Monreal, but on this occasion Atkinson took no action. The referee was at the heart of things again moments later as he issued a second yellow card to Simpson after two fouls in five minutes on Alexis Sanchez and Giroud.
Ranieri reacted by introducing Marcin Wasilewski and Demarai Gray in place of Mahrez and Shinji Okazaki, while Wenger threw on an extra attacker in Walcott.
And it was the England forward who struck to level the game, finishing coolly from Giroud's knock-down to convert Arsenal's first shot on target of the afternoon.
Ramsey put another effort wide when he should have done better but the Gunners had dominated against the 10 men of Leicester.
With Arsenal finding gaps in the Foxes back line it was Sanchez who was next to miss the target when he should have at least tested Schmeichel.
Welbeck was brought on for his first appearance in 10 months as Arsenal continued to press but Per Mertesacker could only glance a free header wide as the home side's frustrations grew.
Giroud finally tested Schmeichel but the Danish goalkeeper was on hand to save well from the striker, who then headed an effort straight into his gloves - before Ramsey again missed the target.
But Wasilewski gave away a late-free kick and Ozil's pinpoint delivery found the head of Welbeck, whose cushioned effort sent the Emirates Stadium into raptures.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"THAT'S how you win the League. Never give up. Keep fighting. Proud of the team. #afc" - Arsenal fan Piers Morgan @piersmorgan feels the last-gasp win could be a turning point.
Petr Cech: 7
Hector Bellerin: 7
Per Mertesacker: 6
Laurent Koscielny: 6
Nacho Monreal: 5
Francis Coquelin: 6
Aaron Ramsey: 7
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6
Mesut Ozil: 7
Alexis Sanchez: 7
Olivier Giroud: 7
Calum Chambers (for Koscielny, 46): 6
Theo Waclott (for Coquelin, 60): 7
Danny Welbeck (for Oxlade-Chamberlain, 83): 8
Kasper Schmeichel: 7
Danny Simpson: 4
Wes Morgan: 7
Robert Huth: 7
Christian Fuchs: 6
Riyad Mahrez: 6
Danny Drinkwater: 7
N'Golo Kante: 8
Marc Albrighton: 7
Shinji Okazaki: 6
Jamie Vardy: 7
Marcin Wasilewski (for Mahrez, 58): 6
Demarai Gray (for Okazaki, 60): 6
Andy King (for Albrighton, 83): 6
N'Golo Kante: Wenger admitted he was aware of Kante during his time in France but opted against signing the midfielder, who ran the show in the first half at the Emirates. Covers every blade of grass and played his part at both ends.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Danny Welbeck: 10 months on the sidelines would have seemed worth it as Welbeck headed home in stoppage time, making all of the pain of rehabilitating from a serious knee injury disappear as he ran to celebrate with the fans who had welcomed him back into the fold just minutes before.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Wenger lost Gabriel to a hamstring injury before the game and would have to substitute Koscielny at the interval - but he will know just how imporant Welbeck's goal was to his title ambitions and will enjoy the fact his two attacking substitutions paid dividends. Ranieri will hope the manner of the defeat does not deflate his side.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Hard to have a whinge after a potential title decider ended in such fashion having already entertained throughout.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Arsenal v Hull (FA Cup, Saturday, February 20)
Leicester v Norwich (Barclays Premier League, Saturday February 27)
Walcott, whose equaliser on 70 minutes was Arsenal's first shot on target, feels the victory could be a decisive moment in the title race.
The substitute told Sky Sports: "Leicester are a good team, they are no mugs, but this could be a turning point for us.
"It shows everyone is ready when given the opportunity, I know we were against 10 men, but we always tend to find it difficult against 10 men."
Welbeck was introduced in the 83rd minute for his first appearance since April 26, 2015, and the former Manchester United forward admits it has been a difficult period in his career.
"It has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me missing a lot of football. It's the first time in my career I've missed so much football. My family and friends know what I've been through and to get that winning goal is a beautiful feeling.
"It's only one goal, I want to be out there playing minutes and staying fit now."
Walcott added: "He (Welbeck) obviously hasn't played for months and to get straight into the mix of it in such a big game, with the last kick of the game, it's special players that come out in games like this."
Leicester were left to rue Simpson's sending-off and manager Claudio Ranieri was not happy with the decision.
He said: "It was a fantastic match, very fast, but I don't know if in a normal match (Simpson's) two yellow cards was a sending-off. I think the referee was a little more severe against us in that point. They were fouls, but not two yellow cards.
"It was a great match, 11 versus 11 we win the match, but that is OK. The match was full of fouls, so why send off the player? Come on."
The Italian added: "We know Arsenal is a fantastic team, with so many fantastic players full of skills, but we tried to counter-attack and we controlled the match very well.
"It was the last chance, they were smarter than us, that's OK, that's football, but I'm happy because we showed a good performance. We are top of the table, we have to fight and carry on smiling."