Arsenal have found themselves entangled in some outlandish plot-lines already this season but the one that provided the backdrop to this much-anticipated Champions League play-off second leg appeared to take the biscuit.
It was a tale built on claims of corruption and deceit, on shadowy characters and damaging allegations but one that, when the game got under way here, appeared to grant Arsenal an overdue break.
The announcement that the Turkish champions Fenerbahce had been withdrawn from this season's Champions League by their national federation, at the behest of Uefa, in the wake of the match-fixing scandal that has engulfed the Istanbul club and the country, lit the touch-paper on the rumours that concerned what might happen next.
Chief among them was the suggestion that the losing play-off team with the highest Uefa co-efficient would be promoted in Fenerbahce's place. Given that Arsenal had the highest co-efficient of any team in the round, the prospect loomed of Arsène Wenger's men being granted a safety net in the event of any slip-up.
Uefa briefed that there were a number of options that could come into play, and not only those related to co-efficients. They promised a statement 15 minutes before the kick-off, which did not materialise, and as Arsenal slugged out a fast and open first half with Udinese, who are a long way from the stereotypical Serie A team, so the suggestions whirred.
The cynics had a field day. It was typical of Uefa, said one, to look at a way of ensuring Arsenal's survival; the money-spinning clubs always have to participate. Another warmed to the theme to predict a shock call for the New York Cosmos. Or Brazil.
It had felt ridiculous to believe that Uefa might announce that the co-efficient line was the one they would pursue before the kick-off. It would have undermined the contest. Uefa's regulations, moreover, stated that "a club which is not admitted to the competition is replaced by the next best-placed club in the top domestic league championship of the same association, provided it fulfils the admission criteria." Trabzonspor finished as the runners-up to Fenerbahce last season.
Twenty minutes into the game, and the sub-plot was gone with the touch of a button. Uefa's statement dropped on its official website and it confirmed that Trabzonspor would indeed take Fenerbahce's place in Thursday's draw for the Champions League group phase. They will be replaced in the Europa League by their play-off opponents, Athletic Bilbao.
It is unclear whether Wenger and his players were aware of the unfolding story, which provided the evening with yet another layer of drama. And even if they were, they would have ignored it. The club know only too well how falsely-raised hopes can die.
It was an intense occasion from start to finish, the feeling reinforced by the 31C heat at kick-off time and it did not seem to matter that the Stadio Friuli (capacity: 41,700) had only been allowed to admit 26,000 after Uefa complained about many of the seats not having backs. Udine's big night was restricted by health and safety.
Arsenal needed to show a ruthless edge, which has been strangely absent during the embryonic stages of what has been a difficult season. Wenger's team can normally be relied upon, at least, to prise opponents apart, to create chances, but their shortcomings in attack had plagued them upon their arrival in northern Italy.
When opportunity knocked, Udinese's admirable goalkeeper, Samir Handanovic, simply had to be beaten and it felt ominous when Theo Walcott failed to do so on 33 minutes. It was a close-range chance that the Englishman might have dreamed of yet he did nothing more than play safe to hit the target, and Handanovic saved, before getting up to block Robin van Persie's rebound shot.
Antonio Di Natale was eye-catching. Having had an effort pulled back for offside and also hitting a post, the Udinese captain drifted away from Johan Djourou to head his team in front on the night. It posed the ultimate test for Wenger's players but they answered well enough to provide their season with a touchstone.
Arsenal's progress became the story of a big-hearted comeback, laced with razor-sharp incisions from their forward three and with a heart-in-the-mouth moment thrown into the mix. The penalty award looked harsh yet Wojciech Szczesny's save was breathtaking. Arsenal's possible insurance policy from Uefa did not pay. Happily for Wenger, his players took out their own.
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