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).
|Italy coach Di Biagio dismisses Raiola rage over Balotelli snub|
|Lopetegui not ruling out Martinez World Cup chances|
|Late Widnes rally sees off Salford|
|Ailing Halep battles past Dodin in Miami|
|Spain defender Ramos targeting Casillas caps record|
|Pogba gets no special treatment from Deschamps|
|Defending champion Johnson dumped out of WGC Dell Match Play|
|Ibrahimovic to LA Galaxy? Beckham, Drogba, Pirlo and the other stars to try MLS|
|Wilshere out for England with Pickford to face Netherlands|
|Southgate rejects England safety concerns over World Cup|
|Great things come to an end - Ibrahimovic confirms Man Utd departure|
|This is Messi´s team - Sampaoli puts faith in Barcelona superstar|
|Tony Romo plays rollercoaster first round in PGA Tour debut|
|Total embarrassment: Hussain and Willis slam England following Auckland humiliation|
|Elgar urges South Africa to ´brush off´ disappointment of collapse|
|Juventus to play in MLS All-Star Game|
|Low confirms Can will miss Spain game|
|Tiger´s Masters timeline: Can Woods rediscover his best Augusta form?|
|Morgan to captain World XI for T20 hurricane fundraiser|
|Ibrahimovic released by Manchester United|
|Santos not interested in Ronaldo to China links|
|French Open prize money up to €2.2m for singles champions|
|WATCH: Messi scores superb solo strike in Argentina training|
|Zimbabwe´s World Cup hopes all but over after UAE loss|
|Koeman names Van Dijk new Netherlands captain|
|Dybala and Icardi´s World Cup hopes doused by Sampaoli|
|Pierre-Paul joins revamped Bucs pass rush in trade|
|I almost s*** myself - Pique on Keane rant|
|UEFA order PSG to close Auteuil stand|
|Cummins puts Australia in control as South Africa collapse after tea|
|Surgery on both elbows for ´different animal´ Parker|
|Director of rugby Kennedy leaves London Irish|
|Brilliant Bale basks in Wales record|
|Romo hits back-to-back birdies on PGA Tour debut|
|Neuer needs to play to make Germany´s World Cup squad – Low|
|All we can do is take it on the chin - Bayliss responds to Auckland humiliation|
|China 0 Wales 6: Record-breaking Bale leads demolition job in perfect start for Giggs|
|Curry closer to return than Durant - Kerr|
|Alonso expects McLaren to be at ´lowest level´ in Melbourne|
|Serena´s conqueror and a new tennis superstar - who is Naomi Osaka?|
|Bale becomes Wales´ record goalscorer with China hat-trick|
|Hamilton warns Ricciardo not to rock Red Bull boat|
|It could have been worse! England´s lowest Test totals|
|The ´reality for people with a brain´ is Manchester United are in transition, Mourinho claims|
|Black Caps seamer savours Boult from the blue|
|West Ham ban disruptive fans for life after Burnley chaos|
|Storm respond by beating Cowboys|
|Ten wickets in 79 minutes - a timeline of England´s Auckland horror show|
|England´s bleak winter sinks to new low|
|Iniesta hints at post-World Cup international retirement|
|All we do is talk s*** - Pique goads Madrid stars over WhatsApp|
|England like rabbits in the headlights - Bayliss|
|Euro 2016 humiliation helped England, claims Dele Alli|
|58 all out! Shambolic England overshadow Broad milestone|
|Iniesta confident of two more years in Barcelona starting XI|
|Kane probably the best striker in the world - Maguire|
|Broad strikes again – the Opta data behind the England bowler´s 400th wicket|
|Wenger told Wilshere he could leave Arsenal|
|An India hat-trick and THAT Ashes annihilation: Broad´s finest Test spells|
|Broad removes Latham to claim 400th Test wicket|
|If you play for Atletico, you must be committed – Koke responds to Griezmann speculation|
|LeBron´s historic night leads Cavs past Raptors, Howard tallies rare 30-30|
|Del Potro, Cilic loom for Haase and Herbert|
|Giggs: Bale will feature for Wales in China Cup|
|Serena releases statement after skipping media following Miami loss|
|England bowled out for 58 in 130-year Test low|
|Maradona: Messi doesn´t have to prove himself by winning World Cup|
|Cavs tally worst defensive half of season against Raptors|
|McIlroy, Johnson stunned on day one in Austin|
|Cristiano Ronaldo hasn´t asked to leave Real Madrid amid China links – Perez|