Arsenal 1 Wolves 1
Arsenal were left frustrated as 10-man Wolves battled to a 1-1 draw at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners, looking to go back into the top four, were ahead after just eight minutes through Gervinho.
However, Wolves, struggling at the other end of the table, rallied and levelled on 38 minutes through Steven Fletcher and survived the dismissal of midfielder Nenad Milijas as keeper Wayne Hennessey denied the home side time and again.
Arsenal were without England winger Theo Walcott because of illness for this afternoon’s Barclays Premier League clash with Wolves at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners would move back into the top four with a victory, while captain Robin van Persie was aiming to set a new club record for goals scored in a calendar year.
Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun, who scored the winner at Aston Villa before Christmas, both started in midfield, with Aaron Ramsey on the bench, while Johan Djourou recovered from a groin problem to start in defence. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny made his 50th Arsenal appearance.
Wolves were looking to keep themselves clear of the relegation battle, and handed a first Premier League start to 18-year-old midfielder Anthony Forde, while Stephen Fletcher led the attack.
Because of a full-back injury crisis, Djourou again slotted in on the right, but was soon caught out of position as Matthew Jarvis got clear, with Per Mertesacker coming across to make a timely block.
After surviving another ball across their six-yard box, Arsenal broke quickly to take the lead in the eighth minute.
Rosicky fed Benayoun, whose pass split the Wolves defence as Gervinho beat the offside trap to race clear.
The Ivory Coast frontman, set to soon be away at the African Nations Cup, waited for keeper Wayne Hennessey to commit himself, before cutting back inside and then rolling the ball into the net between the two defenders on the line.
Wolves looked in danger of being overrun, as following their positive start, the visitors were forced to defend deeper and deeper.
Gervinho darted clear again and fed van Persie on the right side of the penalty area, but for once the Dutchman’s radar was off as he skewed the ball well wide of the far post.
Benayoun, on loan from Chelsea, was producing an all-action display and charged down the left – only to stumble over the ball when in the penalty area.
Van Persie continued to look for the opening, his chip headed over by Wolves defender Stephen Ward.
There was a brief stoppage when Wolves defender Ronald Zubar needed treatment after being caught in the face by Thomas Vermaelen’s boot as the Belgian cleared the ball.
To their credit, Wolves had weathered the storm somewhat, only to then almost hit the self-destruct button when skipper Karl Henry lost the ball to Van Persie. He fed Rosicky on the edge of the box who in turn laid a pass off to Mikel Arteta and his angled drive was blocked by Ward.
Van Persie then saw his low strike turned around the post by Hennessey.
On 31 minutes, Roger Johnson was shown a yellow card by referee Stuart Attwell for sliding in to clip the Dutchman as he charged towards the penalty area, with Christophe Berra the covering defender.
Arteta chipped the free-kick over the wall but it lacked any real pace and was comfortably collected by the Wolves keeper.
Out of nothing, Wolves were level on 38 minutes. Arsenal failed to clear a corner, which Stephen Hunt lobbed back in. His shot was deflected and Fletcher - played onside by Alex Song – guided a header into the far corner.
Arsenal immediately went on the offensive, but Wolves were more confident and calmly saw their way through to half-time.
Zubar was in the wars again at the start of the second half, falling awkwardly on his knee in a challenge with Gervinho on the near touchline.
The Wolves defender hobbled back on, but was soon replaced by Richard Stearman.
Arsenal upped the tempo, with Gervinho now making inroads down the left.
However, the Gunners failed to find a telling pass in the final third.
In the 57th minute, Laurent Koscielny’s cross struck Berra on the arm, but the referee was not interested – and instead showed a yellow card to Vermaelen for complaining.
The frustration continued as Gervinho weaved his way into the Wolves penalty area, only to lay the ball off, which was hacked clear.
Benayoun was replaced by Arshavin for the remaining 25 minutes.
Arsenal had a free-kick when Gervinho was bundled over by Henry 22 yards out, just left of centre.
Van Persie clipped the ball towards the top corner, with Hennessey touching it over at full stretch.
Mertesacker’s close-range header was scrambled clear by the busy Wolves keeper as Arsenal pressed again.
With 19 minutes left, Ramsey replaced Song, who had just gone into the book of the busy referee.
Rosicky swept the ball wide from 20 yards after a persistent run by Koscielny.
With tempers at boiling point, Atwell brandished his red card on 75 minutes after a studs-up sliding challenge by Nenad Milijas on Arteta.
Van Persie’s shot on the turn was deflected behind as Arsenal laid siege to the Wolves goal, with Arshavin then clipping the outside of the post.
Hennessey pushed away another goal-bound free-kick from van Persie, before Marouane Chamakh came on for Djourou to give the Gunners another attacker in the closing five minutes.
The Morocco striker then clashed heads with van Persie at a corner, which left the Arsenal skipper momentarily out of action.
Vermaelen was denied by an inspired Hennessey before Wolves held out through six minutes of stoppage time.