Arsenal limped past Red Star Belgrade 1-0 as Olivier Giroud's stunning goal lit up an otherwise entirely forgettable Europa League encounter.
After sparkling inter-play between Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, Giroud executed an overhead kick into the top corner five minutes from time to lift returning pressure from Arsene Wenger.
The weekend's defeat to Watford, after which the Hornets captain Troy Deeney claimed the Gunners lacked "Cojones", reopened some Arsenal fans' frustrations with Wenger and the players - and this performance did little to help.
Wenger reverted to the patchwork approach he has taken to European team selections this season, Mathieu Debuchy playing for the first time in nearly a year, while Mohamed Elneny featured alongside the Frenchman in a back three and Reiss Nelson, scorer of six goals in five Under-23 games this season, was deployed at wing-back.
The result was a stunted performance in attack, until Red Star defender Milan Rodic was dismissed in the 80th minute and the Premier League side's three most senior players linked up to brilliant effect at Rajko Mitic Stadium.
Progression from Group H now looks a certainty, with the Gunners sat five points clear in first place after three wins from as many matches.
Red Star's raucous fans never relented despite the tepid nature of the majority of the game, although their side had the better of the first-half chances.
After Milan Borjan denied Walcott with his legs from close-range, Richmond Boakye felt he should have had a penalty when Petr Cech tripped him.
Referee Benoit Bastien instead awarded a contentious corner, from which the Ghanaian hit the crossbar with a free header, further compounding his angst.
The home side kept the pressure on, though, and Cech came to the rescue when he denied a swivelling snapshot from Nemanja Radonjic, who saw a follow-up attempt smothered by Nelson.
Following a typical pre-match offering, Red Star's fans bucked tradition and unfurled another huge banner for the start of the second half, but it could not lift the stodgy fare on the pitch.
Walcott scuffed his attempt from a cut-back by Nelson, who drew Borjan into a regulation near-post save.
Nenad Krsticic stung the palms of Cech with a header after arriving late in the box, and Radonjic brought the veteran into another stop soon after.
Red Star's advances were curtailed when Rodic led with his arm in an aerial challenge with Francis Coquelin to earn a second caution, and it sparked Arsenal into their glittering best.
Starting 30 yards from goal, Wilshere burst past two men before feeding Walcott and flicking a brilliant return to the winger, who nodded across the six-yard box, where Giroud turned and picked out the top corner over his shoulder, providing a satisfying aftertaste to another otherwise bland display, a trip to another out-of-sorts side, Everton, on Sunday will require greater gumption.
Key Opta stats:
- Arsenal have won their last four Europa League/UEFA Cup away games, after losing five of the previous six (D1).
- The Gunners have kept their first clean sheet away from home in European competition since beating Olympiacos 3-0 in December 2015.
- Olivier Giroud has been directly involved in eight goals in his last eight starts in Europe for Arsenal (seven goals, one assist).
- Theo Walcott has been directly involved in four goals in his last four European appearances for Arsenal (three goals, one assist).
- Walcott's assist was his 11th for Olivier Giroud in all competitions; only Mesut Ozil has provided more assists for the Frenchman (15).
|Everton striker Niasse facing two-match ban after FA diving charge|
|Wyatt makes history as England salvage Women´s Ashes draw|
|Lampard excited by English clubs in Champions League|
|Kvitova ready for ´second career´ to start in 2018|
|Williams deny Kubica deal has been agreed|
|Thiago and Coman back for Bayern´s trip to Anderlecht|
|Prior launches second Lyon attack|
|Dybala hails Messi as ´our Maradona´, wants to play with Neymar|
|Stokes has let England down - Warner wades in ahead of Ashes opener|
|Sherwood talks up Spurs as potential Champions League winners|
|Borussia Dortmund on the brink as Real Madrid eye progress - Champions League in Opta numbers|
|Hughton hopeful on video assistance after Brighton denied penalty|
|Klopp staying calm over Salah form|
|Irving leads Celtics to 16th straight win|
|He Said What?! The Best NFL quotes of week 11|
|They don´t have magic balls – Cook plays down Australia pace attack|
|Falcons hold off Seahawks|
|Griezmann: I don´t regret staying at Atletico|
|Rogers tells Paine to enjoy Ashes: It´s just a game!|
|Warner ready for first Ashes Test despite neck injury|
|Ashes newcomer Bancroft thought Test chance was gone - Voges|
|Warner suffers injury scare ahead of Ashes|
|Guardiola dismisses Champions League favourites tag|
|Jackson excited about Gordon´s return: I get to open a new toy|
|Nuggets head coach Malone suspended for one game|
|Steelers OT Gilbert handed four-game PED suspension|
|Prior hits back at ´ridiculous´ claims as Lyon hopes Australia end careers|
|Dolphins QB Cutler placed in concussion protocol|
|Navratilova leads tributes to ´amazing´ Novotna after her death at 49|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 2 Stoke City 2: Gross, Izquierdo extend home unbeaten run|
|Dimitrov braced for Australian Open expectations|
|Broncos fire offensive coordinator Mike McCoy|
|England won´t suffer Gabba ambush, Malan claims|
|Rose in contention to face Dortmund as Pochettino denies ´issue´ with defender|
|Benzema knows he can give more – Zidane|
|I´ve fulfilled my dreams already – Klopp has no plans to coach Barcelona|
|Memorable Ashes Moments: Unlikely saviour Agar falls agonisingly short|
|Wallabies coach Cheika faces investigation|
|The Ashes: Australia squad profiles|
|Aubameyang will face Tottenham, Bosz confirms|
|Klopp expects Matip to face Chelsea, Lallana return getting ´nearer´|
|Brown could return for England, Underhill out|
|Haye´s rematch with Bellew off due to bicep tear|
|The Ashes: England squad profiles|
|Gatland vows not to rise to New Zealand media barbs|
|Berizzo looking to former Red Aspas to provide lessons for Sevilla|
|Mangala ready to pounce, but realistic on Man City playing time|
|The Ashes: How the urn will be won - the case for Australia and England|
|Innovation key as WTA Media embraces evolving viewing habits|
|Trump calls for Lynch to be suspended as anthem row returns|
|Mendy injury means Aguero or Jesus for Guardiola|
|Kohli proud of India after almost snatching Kolkata win|
|The Ashes: Key contests in the battle for the urn|
|Guardiola sends ´big hug´ to ´amazing, so gentle´ Pulis|
|Tavecchio quits as head of FIGC, claims board have refused to resign|
|Benedetto facing Argentina World Cup KO with cruciate injury|
|Hansen hails All Blacks progress|
|Kohli´s record century precedes Bhuvneshwar heroics, but Sri Lanka cling on|
|Shape up! Heynckes reveals demand to Bayern star Vidal|
|Australia hope to open England ´scars´ in Brisbane|
|Smiling Broad sports bruise after golfing mishap|
|Ramos sits out Madrid trip to APOEL|
|West Brom sack Pulis after wretched run|
|Ball fighting fit ahead of Ashes opener at the Gabba|
|Murray should appoint Delgado as Lendl replacement - Henman|
|Former Wimbledon champion Novotna dies aged 49|
|Lloris wants Spurs to forget title and focus on top four|
|Pogba no Gerrard yet, says Benitez|
|Pearce released from Roosters contract|
|Expect to get six ducks – Paine reveals Rogers´ Ashes advice|