Arsenal missed out on a chance to join the two Manchester teams at the top of the league in even more remarkable circumstances than in missing out on all the points in the corresponding fixture last season.
This time they threw away a winning position even though Wigan had Charles N'Zogbia sent off for a straight red after a headbutt on Jack Wilshere.
By that point, 12 minutes from the end, Arsenal, showing eight changes from the side that beat Chelsea, had come from a goal behind and ought to have been further ahead. Andrey Arshavin had just failed to add a second goal to the equaliser and assist he provided in the first half. Taking the ball across goal from Tomas Rosicky's pass he attempted to turn and shoot, but found Ali al-Habsi equal to the effort.
Then Lukasz Fabianski, culpable on at least two occasions here last season, made a fine save to deny N'Zogbia, before Wigan's best player was dismissed. That looked to be the end of the contest, yet Wigan equalised with 10 men after Hugo Rodallega climbed to reach Ben Watson's corner at the far post and Sébastien Squillaci forced the ball over his own line under pressure from Gary Caldwell.
"We were 2-1 up and they were down to 10 men; it should have been a winning position," Arsène Wenger said. "But we conceded twice from set-pieces. The equaliser came from a corner and it doesn't matter how many men you have on the pitch then, you have to defend the corner better than we did. We found it hard today, after the Chelsea game, even though I made changes. We came back well in the first half but didn't produce enough in the second. Wigan did well. I would say a draw was fair."
The home side could have gone in front after a couple of minutes, when Arsenal lost possession and Tom Cleverley's alert cross found Rodallega on his own in front of goal, but the Colombian failed to get anything on the ball except a hand. Restored to the side at Theo Walcott's expense Arshavin shot too high with a chance at the other end before Wigan took the lead after 17 minutes, when N'Zogbia's dribbling skills won a penalty from Laurent Koscielny and Watson thumped the ball in from the spot. The Arsenal defender could have few complaints.
N'Zogbia had already cut inside past Abou Diaby, and when a further twist took him inside the area and past Koscielny at the same time the stranded centre back stuck out a despairing leg and brought the winger down. Rather surprisingly he escaped without a card of any description, which came in handy a couple of minutes later when he had to execute a carefully timed tackle in the area to keep out Rodallega. This time he unquestionably played the ball and not the man.
The referee's lenience was pushed to the limit in a scruffy period around the half hour, when Wigan's Hendry Thomas was on the receiving end of a couple of rash challenges. Although the game had settled down again by the time Arsenal drew level, the move that led to the equaliser began with Emmanuel Eboué complaining about a free-kick decision he thought had been awarded the other way.
Once on the edge of Wigan's area Marouane Chamakh scooped a pass forward to create a shooting opportunity for Nicklas Bendtner. Al-Habsi responded with a diving parry but was powerless to do anything about the follow-up, acrobatically drilled into the unguarded net by Arshavin.
If Wigan thought that was bad there was worse to come, and again the Arshavin-Bendtner combination did the damage. The Russian poked a clever pass forward that caught Antolin Alcaraz with his back to the action and allowed Bendtner to hold off the other centre half, Caldwell, to score his second league goal of the season, with a low shot.
Wigan did not abandon all hope, it took a Fabianski save from Rodallega to preserve Arsenal's advantage at the interval, though after leading for much of the half they displayed something of a habitual failing by losing concentration completely.
A Cleverley shot that only cleared the bar by inches was the closest Wigan came to rescuing a point with 11 men, and when N'Zogbia went on a run shortly before his dismissal to shoot after exchanging passes with James McArthur it appeared Fabianski had kept out the best Wigan could produce.
The fun, in fact, was only just starting. It was ridiculous for N'Zogbia to get himself dismissed in a game where the referee seemed determined to let almost anything go, and his manager offered no excuses.
"It was an unacceptable reaction, something I don't like to see and Charles knows that," Roberto Martínez said.
"He let his team down, but the reaction of the players after the dismissal got him out of jail. We needed to come back with character at that point, and we did. We beat Arsenal 1-0 with 10 men."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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