Bobby Zamora does not score enough goals for a centre-forward at Premier League level, let alone one with pretensions of making the England squad for the Euro 2012 finals. It is a source of no little frustration to Martin Jol, the Fulham manager. The pair have endured a slightly fractious relationship and Zamora's future at Craven Cottage remains unclear.
But it is amazing what a 90th-minute winner can do to promote harmony, however temporary, particularly when it sinks Arsenal and provides Jol with his first success against Arsène Wenger. Jol has previous with the Frenchman from his time in charge of Tottenham Hotspur; he once went chin-to-chin with him on the Highbury touchline before uttering the memorable post-match line: "He obviously hasn't seen the size of my fists."
He had not tasted victory over Wenger in eight previous attempts and the history made Zamora's goal feel even sweeter. At full-time, as Wenger stalked to the dressing room, having allowed perceived injustice to overwhelm him, Jol beamed his big smile and bear-hugged Zamora. "I love my players, especially when they score goals," he said.
It was an outrageous finale. Fulham had dominated the second half and Arsenal were already clinging to their first-half lead, given to them by Laurent Koscielny's first goal of the season, when the referee, Lee Probert, reduced them to 10 men in the 78th minute. Johan Djourou, rightly booked for a bad tackle on Moussa Dembélé, was caught the wrong side of Zamora and he leaned into him. To Wenger's fury, Probert brandished a second yellow card.
Fulham turned the screw yet further but, with cutting edge up front a persistent problem, nobody could have envisaged the denouement. The equaliser represented a one-two punch from two of Arsenal's less heralded old boys, Philippe Senderos heading a corner back for Steve Sidwell to nod home, but Zamora's goal was a giddy moment for the home crowd.
Steven Kelly's cross was contested by Sidwell but headed square by the Arsenal substitute Sébastien Squillaci and there was Zamora, watching the volley down on to his left boot, to ram it low into the near corner. His sixth goal of the season, on his return to the team, felt golden, particularly to Jol.
"It's almost an insult to say it's the first time I've beaten Wenger but you are right," Jol said. "I had a couple of draws, even away from home but I didn't manage to beat them so to do it with Fulham is a great feeling."
The one certainty about Fulham under Jol has been that there is no certainty. His team can look a match for the very best – witness their positive results against Manchester City and Liverpool at home; Arsenal and Chelsea away – yet they have also plumbed the depths. This was their first home fixture since the 5-0 defeat against Manchester United, which featured one of the most dismal first-half displays in memory.
They mixed the encouraging with the erratic in the early running alone. Their wide men had been sent out to target Arsenal's make-shift full-backs – Francis Coquelin, the midfielder, doubles as the club's fourth-choice left-back these days – and there was an intensity about Fulham's pressing.
Yet one shocking aberration served to condemn them to chase the game. After Mikel Arteta's shot had been blocked, Gervinho fed Aaron Ramsey and, when his cross flicked off Kelly, Fulham's defenders were not so much wrong-footed as frozen. Koscielny, of all people, wandered in, set his feet and planted a header past the exposed David Stockdale.
Jol remarked that it had been "so easy for Arsenal in the first 25 minutes that they probably became complacent" and the visitors would have been further in front were it not for a wonderful triple stop by Stockdale, who repelled Ramsey, a miscue from Sidwell and Gervinho in short order.
Arsenal had earlier claimed a penalty after Senderos' nibble at Gervinho; the Ivorian made the most of the contact, which possibly counted against him. The same might have been true of Fulham's penalty shout in the 34th minute, when Bryan Ruiz went down under Alex Song's challenge. Wenger would be as angry about the non-award for Gervinho as he was about the sending-off.
Fulham, who had flickered in the first half, were magnificent after the interval. Dembélé and Ruiz were persistent dangers and, as they pressed Arsenal back in what amounted to a siege, the chances came. Danny Murphy's free-kick caught Wojciech Szczesny in no man's land and Senderos headed wide. Ruiz crossed and Clint Dempsey, climbing above Per Mertesacker, directed his effort past the post and, most tantalisingly, Ruiz tricked through but Szczesny stood tall to block.
Wenger feared the worst when Djourou was dismissed and not only because he had to bring on Squillaci. His defence, battered and bruised, took on an even more patched-up feel. Arsenal were holding for the final bell, like the punch-drunk boxer, when Sidwell, who had also returned to Fulham's starting XI, headed home from close-range. Zamora, though, brought the house down. Despite Wenger's arguments the home win was deserved.