Jack Wilshere has revelled in the buzz of his Arsenal return after a 17-month injury lay-off. Now, he has once again felt the unique charge of a goal. The midfielder's timing was in here, and not only because he last found the net almost two years ago. Arsenal had laboured in the first half of a tie that they sorely needed to win to ease their Champions League nerves.
Wilshere burst on to Olivier Giroud's header and, when his touch and composure had to be perfect, he lifted the ball over the advancing Montpellier goalkeeper, Geoffrey Jourdren. The 20-year-old could not conceal his delight. Tongue out, he beat the club crest on his shirt before sliding on his knees towards the corner flag.
The evening's real beauty, though, was still to come. If Wilshere's goal represented the turning point, then Lukas Podolski's was the one that thrilled the home crowd.
They will not tire of watching the reruns of such a sumptuous volley, which carried shades of those that Robin van Persie used to dispatch in this arena. The crowd even serenaded him with Van Persie's old song, about scoring when he wants, with the names changed.
Arsenal emerged as comfortable victors, which is not something that has happened for a good few weeks and, by way of a footnote, Arsène Wenger had no trouble with a team of European officials. It became a gloriously stress-free occasion after Wilshere's goal and, with Schalke beating Olympiakos, Wenger could savour qualification for the last 16 with a game to spare.
The trip to Olympiakos in December has been rendered largely meaningless, although Wenger said that he was determined to get the victory with which his team could leapfrog Schalke to finish as group winners.
"Statistically, it's better to finish top of the group," said Wenger, who could feel pride at reaching the knock-out phase of Europe's elite competition for the 13th season in succession. "It's not the most glamorous thing but it's not as easy as it looks. There's not that many teams that do it."
Wilshere's performance mirrored that of his team: difficult at the start but growing inexorably in confidence. "It was great to see Wilshere scoring after being out for so long and the other one was fantastic for Podolski," Wenger said.
"In our last game against Tottenham, after 60 minutes, Wilshere lacked a bit of petrol but I didn't feel that tonight. He is not far away from being at his best but I must still manage him and not overload him with too many games."
The first half was no spectacle, despite the busy promptings of Santi Cazorla and it felt as though it might not be Podolski's night. Twice, he had sightings of goal and on each occasion he failed to work Jourdren. Arsenal's best first-half moment had come on 11 minutes when Laurent Koscielny timed his run to meet Thomas Vermaelen's whipped left-wing cross. His free header crashed against the crossbar. Montpellier flickered, with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa an imposing presence, and Wojciech Szczesny needed to leave his line to thwart Anthony Mounier.
Arsenal had to raise themselves in the second half from what had been a curious flatness. The football turmoil had been elsewhere in the capital at kick-off time, chiefly at Chelsea, but there could be no doubting the urgency for Wenger's team to get the job done.
They located the tonic. Podolski linked with Vermaelen on the left and the defender's cross invited Giroud to show his aerial power against his former club. He obliged and Wilshere read the knock-down. He was not going to miss with his left foot from the edge of the six-yard box, despite the pressure from Jourdren and he enjoyed his first goal since the 4-2 victory at Aston Villa on 27 November 2010.
Arsenal were up and running, and the sense of liberation was writ large over Podolski's volley. From another Giroud assist, this one a chipped return flick, the striker showcased his technique and the power in that left foot.
It was a moment to illuminate any game, let alone one that largely failed to excite. Cazorla and Giroud had the chances to extend the lead but the damage was done. Montpellier went with a whimper. Arsenal march on.