The women's club game was restored to its default setting as Arsenal, after failing for the first time in seven seasons to reach the 2012 FA Cup final, lifted the trophy for the sixth time in eight years and the 12th time in all.
In front of a disappointing attendance of 4,988 at Doncaster's Keepmoat Stadium, the lowest final crowd since 2000 and almost 20,000 short of the record set in 2008, captain Steph Houghton's early goal and late strikes by the midfielder Jordan Nobbs and the striker Ellen White earned Arsenal victory over the team they had beaten with equal comfort in the 2011 final.
Defeat for Bristol Academy, who are top of the Super League, left them still searching for their first major trophy while Arsenal's celebrations were for a 39th piece of silverware in 22 years – this after their near-invincibility had been brought into question by a 4-0 WSL thrashing by Liverpool three weeks ago.
That was Arsenal's first league defeat in almost two years and the heaviest they had suffered since April 2003. But they have bounced back in style and their new manager, Shelley Kerr, after her first trophy success since taking over in February,, said: "People were writing us off when they saw that scoreline against Liverpool but I never questioned the ability or character of the players.
"The expectations within our club are as high as those outside and today the girls were absolutely magnificent. We dominated for long periods and the win was well deserved. It's important that as a club we continue to win trophies, so I'm extremely delighted for everybody concerned."
The Bristol manager, Mark Sampson, agreed with Kerr's thoughts on Arsenal's perceived demise. "People keep telling me Arsenal are on the slide," he said, "but that's rubbish. They are a brilliant team."
"We had to be at our best if we were going to beat them and we were desperate to win, but unfortunately we weren't at our best. We had a shocking start, conceding in the second minute, but the girls showed good character. They could have crumbled but they pulled up their sleeves and battled throughout."
Arsenal were ahead inside the opening 90 seconds, the left-winger Rachel Yankey spearing in a cross that the midfielder Houghton, rushing in at the far post, headed firmly home.
Corinne Yorston's fifth-minute corner should have led to an equaliser but, from eight yards, the central defender Jemma Rose ballooned her shot over the crossbar. That was a rare early chance for Academy, however, Arsenal producing the more potent attacks and the striker White, from another fine Yankey cross, having a 15th minute close range effort spectacularly saved by the Bristol goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain had a slice of good fortune when a narrow-angled shot bythe midfielder Nobbs bounced off the far post and into the keeper's hands. But four minutes before half-time she pulled off another excellent save, diving to turn aside Alex Scott's 18-yard drive.
Emma Byrne was tested for the first time four minutes after the interval, having to scramble across her line to keep out Lucy Staniforth's 20-yard free-kick.
Arsenal went on to dominate the second half as they had the first and, after Yankey and Houghton had gone close, Nobbs headed in the second goal from winger Gemma Davison's 72nd-minute cross.
As Bristol attempted to find a way back into the game, the substitute Laura del Río sent an overhead kick narrowly over Byrne's crossbar, but Arsenal's by now almost inevitable victory was wrapped up four minutes into stoppage time when White drove in the loose ball after Nobbs's goalbound effort had been saved by Chamberlain.
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