Three goals in 11 minutes at the death saw Wigan overturn a two-goal deficit and beat Arsenal 3-2 in a thrilling Premier League clash at the DW Stadium.
Arsenal appeared to be cruising to victory – and giving their title hopes a shot in the arm – after goals by Theo Walcott and Mikael Silvestre either side of half time had given them a 2-0 lead.
But Ben Watson started the Wigan fightback by pulling one back on 80 minutes before Titus Bramble levelled things up in the 90th minute following a calamitous Lukasz Fabianski error.
And Charles N’Zogbia then capped an incredible turnaround with the winner in the first minute of added time to shock the Gunners and give Wigan’s survival hopes a huge boost. The Latics are now seven points clear of the drop zone with three games left.
Arsenal, so often the beneficiaries of late goals themselves, were left to wonder how they had let slip a two-goal lead which had looked like keeping alive their slim title hopes. Instead of closing the gap on leaders Chelsea to three points, the Gunners are now six points behind with just nine points left to play for.
Wigan started well enough against their more illustrious opponents and Charles N’Zogbia nearly gave the hosts an early lead when he sidefooted the wrong side of the upright on 11 minutes.
Yet Arsenal, even without the injured Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie who started on the bench, still had enough quality in their side to keep Wigan’s strikeforce at arm’s length while fashioning by far the better chances at the other end.
Abou Diaby played one pass too many when he should have opted to shoot on 12 minutes before Nicklas Bendtner brought Chris Kirkland into action for the first time with a neat volley.
Much of Arsenal’s best attacking play came down the right hand side, where Walcott again thrilled and frustrated in equal measures.
The 21-year-old was slow to start, but he sprang into life just after the half-hour mark, racing onto Diaby’s excellent through pass; but, like his midfield colleague earlier, he chose to pass the ball inside instead of going for goal himself and the chance went begging.
Perhaps sensing Gunners’ fans frustrations at their side’s apparent reluctance to shoot, Tomas Rosicky let fly three minutes later, forcing a sharp save from Kirkland.
And the next time Walcott found himself in a shooting position, when Bendtner found his run with a precise through pass on 41 minutes, he made the right decision and was rewarded with the opener.
The goal filled Walcott with confidence and just three minutes later he beat his man with ease before flashing a shot just wide of the far post.
The second half started with a bang as incidents at both ends within minutes of each other appeared to have effectively decided the outcome of the game.
Soon after the restart, Wigan had a big penalty shout turned down after Samir Nasri appeared to tug on Watson’s arm in the box. The Wigan midfielder was more than willing to go down yet referee Lee Mason was unconvinced and waved play on.
Arsenal broke to the other end where Abou Diaby was denied by a fantastic save by Kirkland. But from the resulting corner, Silvestre was left all alone to pick his spot with a well-placed header and Arsenal took a two-goal lead.
Wigan nearly pulled one back immediately after a neat one-two with Watson saw N’Zogbia run clean through on goal but his sidefooter lacked guile and Fabianski, who had telegraphed it, made the save.
Wigan continued to press as the second period wore on, but increasingly it seemed they were going to be frustrated in their efforts.
All that changed in the 80th minute, however, when Victor Moses pulled the ball back to Watson, who sidefooted home from around the penalty spot to give Wigan hope of getting something from the game.
The goal sparked a desperate final 10 minutes of normal time as the Latics pushed forward in numbers and Arsenal increasingly sat back, looking to defend their lead.
Nasri was called into action to clear off the line from Watson before an inexplicable error from Fabianski gifted the equaliser to Bramble. The Polish keeper simply dropped a corner onto the defender’s head, leaving Bramble with very little to do.
The Wigan fans’ were already celebrating wildly at having seemingly rescued a point, but they were to get even more raucous a minute later when N’Zogbia cut inside and unleashed an unstoppable drive past Fabianski to claim a most dramatic victory – and quite possible maintain Wigan’s Premier League status for another season.