A goal deep into added-time from Dennis Bergkamp saved ten-man Arsenal FC's blushes as the English side denied FC Thun a famous draw on their UEFA Champions League debut at Highbury.
The Dutch striker, a 73rd-minute substitute, battled through the heart of the Swiss team's defence with the final whistle approaching, coolly slotting to Eldin Jakupovic's left, to earn Arsenal a hard-fought victory on their eighth successive Champions League appearance. Until then, Nelson Ferreira's 53rd-minute lob looked to have given Thun a share of the spoils in Group B, after Gilberto had broken the deadlock two minutes earlier, following Robin van Persie's dismissal on the stroke of half-time.
Arsenal included fit-again centre-back Sol Campbell in his starting XI for the first time since May, while goalkeeper Manuel Almunia replaced suspended Jens Lehmann as Arsène Wenger made five changes from the side defeated by Middlesbrough FC at the weekend. Fredrik Ljungberg, Cesc Fabregas and Van Persie were also included in an attacking formation which contrasted markedly with Thun's defence-minded lineup, which saw Mauro Lustrinelli utilised as lone striker.
The reinforced back line was soon being tested as the home team dominated the early stages and Van Persie tested the visitors' 20-year-old goalkeeper Jakupovic with a close-range effort. But despite their superiority, Arsenal struggled to find a way through a well-drilled defence that restricted the likes of Lauren and José Antonio Reyes to speculative long shots.
Thun were given occasional relief by the indefatigable Lustrinelli and Adriano Pimenta, the latter forcing a sprawling save from Almunia just after the half-hour but Arsenal, orchestrated by Robert Pirès, began to turn the screw as the interval approached. Fabregas skewed an attempt just wide on 42 minutes before compatriot Reyes hit a powerful drive that squirted under Jakupovic who recovered and then won a free-kick after a strong challenge from Ljungberg.
But just as an Arsenal goal looked inevitable, the hosts were reduced to ten men moments before half-time, when Van Persie's raised foot struck defender Alen Orman in the face. Wenger's problems were now two-fold with the numerical disadvantage made all the worse by the loss of another striker, with the talismanic Thierry Henry already out with a groin strain.
Within six minutes of the restart, however, Arsenal broke the deadlock as Pirès's in-swinging corner found Gilberto unmarked at the back post and the Brazilian midfielder made no mistake with his header. Yet two minutes later the visitors were level, Ferreira's lobbed cross-cum-shot deceiving Almunia and arcing inside the far post.
Sensing a shock win, Thun coach Urs Schönenberger sought to increase the momentum by bringing on the pacy Gelson Rodrigues for Adriano. But neither side were able to work a real opening and it was another replacement, the veteran Bergkamp, who made the most telling contribution, giving Arsenal victory as experience told.