Arsenal may have been dispirited by conceding an equaliser in the 88th minute but that is a setback to be treasured after what had gone before this season. While it would be entirely false to pretend that they were implacable and secure throughout, the visiting team very nearly held on to their 1-0 lead. It took a perfect left-foot volley from the substitute Ivan Perisic to deny them.
There is no cause to be maudlin and Arsenal can be glad that good work by their goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny, ensured that a fine Borussia Dortmund side were denied a victory at the opening of the Champions League group phase. In view of the win over Udinese in the away leg of the qualifier it must be noted that there is spirit in this squad no matter how much they suffered against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
An 8-2 trouncing is not recommended but the least that can be said of Arsenal is that they have been intent on regaining respectability. They did rather more than that here. As matters stand, though, there can be no bragging and Pat Rice, in charge because of Arsène Wenger's touchline ban, was full of compliments for a Dortmund side that squandered almost all of its chances.
"It was like playing us," he said, referring to the slickness of the opposition. "Now we know what it is like whenever we are on form. We stuck to it well. It was extremely strange not having the manager next to me. Usually he is shouting in my ear: 'Why did he do this? Why did he do that?' It has never been one of my ambitions to be the manager, it is too stressful for me."
Rice blamed the earlier upheaval over the uncertainty about the future of footballers such as Cesc Fábregas and Samir Nasri, who did leave the club, but he also strove to hail the newcomers. "We have acquired very good players, contrary to what some people say, and no doubt they will show it, and the team will show it, in the games to come."
Arsenal would have craved such a result beforehand but now it comes as a mild disappointment. Even so, Szczesny had to be sharp in preventing irreparable damage in the final moments of the night. This overall was a Champions League battle that will have pleased Wenger's players in certain respects and it implied improvement to come.
The evening inaugurated another Champions League season but there was nothing tentative about the opening. Roman Weidenfeller was soon saving from Gervinho, with Kevin Grosskreutz firing high over the bar for Dortmund shortly after.
In that spell Bacary Sagna had also cleared a Robert Lewandowski effort from the goal-line. Regardless of the state of either squad or the instructions that had been given, this is a wonderful and clamorous ground that virtually insists on incident.
In Mario Götze Dortmund have a midfielder who looks as if he might cause panic at any moment. Yet the telling last touch did not come readily for either side. When Lukasz Piszczek crossed from the right in the 39th minute, for example, Lewandowski was too far out to apply the sort of force that would have made his header more of a concern to Szczesny.
The gaps could not go unexploited indefinitely, though, and when Theo Walcott linked with Robin van Persie three minutes later the Dutchman had ample space and his shot was too firm to be denied.
It would be wrong to pretend that a match of this order could be kept under perfect control but the action was unlikely to retain a frenzied tone for the entire game. There was relative order for a time as Arsenal at least looked as if they had begun to think about consolidating. That calmness did not prevent Gervinho from bursting clear of the defence but Weidenfeller blocked his effort.
The eventual substitutions by Dortmund spoke more of the strain they were under and the necessity of relieving it. Arsenal's introduction of the combative and promising Emmanuel Frimpong for Walcott was the act of a club yearning to take the vitality out of the fixture. This was not an occasion when either side could dictate play but the tale of the evening appealed to Arsenal as it moved closer to an ending.
A small anti-climax lay before them but it did not feel as if the side was devastated to have succumbed to a leveller in those last few moments. There is much for Arsenal still to do but it is beyond dispute that this was a result to be appreciated. A draw away to Dortmund should always be prized.