They struck the woodwork twice and Theo Walcott missed a glorious first half opening when played clean through and a point at struggling but recently resurgent Bolton means Arsene Wenger avoided the ignominy of a fourth consecutive league defeat for the first time in his 16 years in charge of the club.
But it also underlined how far the former champions have fallen, not only behind the Manchester clubs leading the chase for the title but also a handful of other wannabes who now look far better placed to clinch the fourth and final Champions League place.
Wenger was defiant though, insisting: “There is a long way to go. I’m confident we can come back. We have come through a difficult period. We lost three league games but could have won them as well.
“We are confident but I believe we have to produce our form game by game. For us, every game in the championship now is a cup final. We go into a period now playing in the FA Cup, playing in the Champions League and, combined, those three will be difficult.
“I feel what was missing tonight was to take our chances early in the game, that would have changed the whole game.
“What you are most concerned about is the game you have just played now. You don’t come in after the game and think, this is a difficult period we are going through.
“We had more difficult periods even when we won championships. We did not win for six games. It’s part of football. When you have lost three games like we did, when you don’t lose the fourth game, it’s always not too bad.”
Indeed the evening could have been far more grim for Arsenal had Bolton succeeded in a late penalty appeal after Mark Davies shrugged off the dubious attention of Per Mertesacker and claimed to have been tripped by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Just after the hour it appeared that the visitors would take the lead when Robin van Persie ghosted in to meet Bacary Sagna’s curling right-wing cross with a devastating first-time strike that hit the right-hand Bolton post.
The Gunners were out of luck again in the 80th minute when Van Persie collected Mikel Arteta’s pass and sent a delicate chip over the head of Bogdan only for the ball to hit the crossbar.
But the most glaring miss of the evening belonged to Walcott, however, played through by a clinical 26th minute pass from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The England winger was left with what appeared the routine task of beating Hungarian goalkeeper Adam Bogdan in a one-on-one confrontation but saw his shot well blocked.
Bolton’s chances were limited but no less threatening for that fact. Midway through the first half, they almost took the lead against the run of play.
Chris Eagles’ header was flicked on by a deft touch from full-back Gretar Steinsson and forward David Ngog rolled his shot the wrong side of the left-hand post.
But the draw merely compounded a frustrating day for Arsenal who had earlier confirmed Wilshere would almost certainly miss the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his foot.
“I can confirm I have a stress fracture but it is not in the same area as my first injury which has healed very well which I am happy about,” said Wilshere, via twitter.
BOLTON (4-5-1): Bogdan 8; Steinsson 6, Wheater 6, Knight 7, Ricketts 6; Eagles 7, Reo-Coker 8 (Pratley 88), M Davies 9, Muamba 6, Petrov 7 (Tuncay 80); Ngog 7 (K Davies 74, 6).
ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Szczesny 6; Sagna 6, Mertesacker 6, Koscielny 6 Vermaelen 6; Song 6, Arteta 7; Walcott 6, Ramsey 7 (Rosicky 80), Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Henry 69, 6); Van Persie 7.
Referee: Chris Foy 7.