Per Mertesacker went from zero to hero before Arsenal overcame FA Cup holders Wigan 4-2 in a dramatic semi-final penalty shootout.
A 63rd-minute spot-kick from Jordi Gomez put the Championship side ahead after Mertesacker fouled Callum McManaman but the Germany international pulled his team level with eight minutes of normal time remaining.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Arsenal's major attacking threat throughout – rattled the crossbar during extra time but Arsene Wenger's men would ultimately hold their nerve to keep hopes of a first major trophy in nine seasons alive.
Patrick Vieira famously sealed victory over Manchester United on penalties in the 2005 FA Cup final and on this occasion the decisive contribution came from Lukasz Fabianski.
Arsenal's back-up goalkeeper saved the first two Wigan penalties from Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison, while his team-mates Mikel Arteta, Kim Kallstrom and Olivier Giroud were all on target.
It was left to Santi Cazorla to hit the winning penalty, as Arsenal sealed their spot in the May 17 showpiece against either Hull City or Sheffield United, who contest the second semi-final on Sunday.
Influential Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey made his first start since suffering a thigh injury in December, while Wigan made seven changes.
McManaman – man-of-the-match in last season's final – was one of Wigan's inclusions, with manager Uwe Rosler having overseen a 1-0 loss at Millwall on Tuesday with one eye on this showpiece occasion.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was Arsenal's leading light during the opening exchanges and it required a fine save from Wigan goalkeeper Scott Carson to deny Yaya Sanogo – preferred up front to Giroud - from the England man's sixth-minute cross.
Arsenal struggled for rhythm and McManaman was again impressing at Wembley, shooting over from an acute angle after a driving run.
Lukas Podolski curled a free-kick wide and Carson was quickly off his line to thwart Sanogo as Arsenal belatedly lifted a listless display.
Wigan were on their way to another incredible FA Cup win when Mertesacker brought down McManaman inside the penalty area before the hour-mark.
An injury sustained by Arsenal full-back Nacho Monreal as the winger bustled his way towards goal resulted in a four-minute delay, but Gomez kept his cool to dispatch the spot-kick impeccably.
Sanogo then prodded over from a Ramsey cross as Wenger's men sought a response, and the French forward was on the receiving end of a superb last-ditch tackle from Stephen Crainey shortly after.
Arsenal ramped up the pressure as Sagna headed against the post from Oxlade-Chamberlain's centre, while Crainey desperately cleared when a header from Kieran Gibbs - on for Monreal - threatened to squirm beyond Carson.
And they finally levelled proceedings in the 82nd minute when Mertesacker turned the ball home following a bout of set-piece pressure.
Wigan substitute Nick Powell drilled a speculative effort off target as extra time began but Arsenal remained on the front foot.
Sanogo displayed fine technique to collect Oxlade-Chamberlain's 97th-minute pass and get a shot away but Carson was equal to the task.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was rarely far away from Arsenal's best moments and thudded a drive against the angle of post and bar with nine minutes of extra time remaining, while Collison wasted a header at the other end.
Unfortunately for West Ham loanee Collison, he would soon suffer greater disappointment in the shootout, rendering the spot-kicks put away by Jean Beausejour and James McArthur meaningless.
|14||Jordi Gómez||63' 79'|
|Coach: U. Rösler|
for J. McEachran 64'
for C. McManaman 68'
for Ramis 86'
|Mets hitting coach believes Tebow can make it to MLB|
|Aubameyang reiterates Madrid dream after Bernabeu show|
|Zidane praises Benzema after 50th Champions League goal|
|Aubameyang deserves 99 per cent of credit - Reus|
|Neymar: There´s only one Ballon d´Or winner and it´s Messi, not Ronaldo|
|Magiera hails Legia victory as for ´all of Poland´|
|Tuchel thought Aubameyang had blown chance to equalise|
|Pochettino confident Spurs are back on track|
|Santo hails Porto´s mature performance|
|Lyon proved we can compete with Europe´s best - Genesio|
|Slutsky unsurprised by apparent Premier League interest in Dzagoev|
|Jardim frustrated as Monaco finally lose|
|Allegri dismisses importance of first-place finish|
|Zidane ´angry´ as Real Madrid let top spot slip|
|Sevilla aren´t satisfied with Champions League last 16 - Sampaoli|
|Ranieri slams Leicester´s lack of character|
|Confident Roberts ready to wing in for City|
|Real Madrid equal record 34-match unbeaten run|
|Kane relieved to end Wembley hoodoo|
|Legia Warsaw 1 Sporting CP 0: Guilherme seals Europa League spot|
|Porto 5 Leicester City 0: Silva at the double as Ranieri´s men crumble|
|Borussia Dortmund break record for goals in Champions League group stage|
|Real Madrid 2 Borussia Dortmund 2: Reus equaliser sees visitors grab top spot|
|Bayer Leverkusen 3 Monaco 0: Hosts retain unbeaten record with routine win|
|Club Brugge 0 FC Copenhagen 2: Routine win not enough as FCK must settle for Europa League|
|Lyon 0 Sevilla 0: Europa League holders secure passage|
|Juventus 2 Dinamo Zagreb 0: Bianconeri top group with easy win|
|Tottenham 3 CSKA Moscow 1: Spurs survive scare to seal Europa League berth|
|Benzema reaches 50 Champions League goals|
|Buffon´s 50-game Champions League run comes to an end|
|Santi Cazorla gives Achiles surgery two thumbs up|
|Video technology to assist referees at FIFA Club World Cup|
|Spalletti wants winning mentality to continue for Roma|
|M´Vila rejects Sunderland return|
|Robson-Kanu prioritised Premier League move, despite Atleti interest|
|Puel dismisses Fonte departure speculation|
|Mourinho rejects ´best coach in the world´ tag|
|Manchester United not giving up on Premier League, insists Mkhitaryan|
|Infantino favours 16 three-team groups at World Cup - report|
|Europa League an ´important competition´ for Mourinho|
|Brozovic extends Inter stay|
|Rooney still has England future - Hodgson|
|New wardrobe top of Jesus´ Manchester to-do list|
|Pioli not concerned by Simeone´s Inter comments|
|Poyet: It would be a pleasure to sign Tevez|
|Celtic charged by UEFA over crowd disturbances|
|Not extending Man United stay my only regret - Larsson|
|Aubameyang´s mum: He always spoke about Madrid, never Barcelona|
|AC Milan sale delayed until March|
|Police horse burger thrower fined|
|Nolito comfortable with Guardiola´s rotation policy|
|Ajax expect in-demand Bazoer to exit|
|Not even the Golden Boot would get me an England recall, says Defoe|
|MLS MVP Villa has no interest in Premier League move|
|Vidal: I never had a problem with Luis Enrique|
|Ancelotti not keen on Madrid Champions League reunion|
|Zabaleta: Guardiola needs Iheanacho more than ever|
|Ranieri not fearful of Foxes chop|
|Celtic fan arrested for throwing burger at police horse|
|Dad-to-be Lewandowski reveals baby news with goal celebration|
|Klopp´s Liverpool watched Barca at Camp Nou|
|Wenger braced for tough last-16 draw|
|Roberts buoyed by Guardiola acclaim|
|Gladbach´s Alvaro Dominguez retires at 27|
|Simeone satisfied with aggressive Atletico|
|Emery aims to bounce back after European disappointment|
|Madrid demand ´maximum respect´ for Ronaldo|
|No pressure on Iheanacho to fill Aguero´s boots - Guardiola|
|Cocu praises PSV effort despite European exit|
|Ancelotti hoping for confidence boost|
|Gunes takes blame for Besiktas thrashing|
|Vitoria upbeat despite Napoli defeat|
|Arda Barca future brighter after hat-trick|
|Le Tissier makes ´naked massage´ claims|
|´He has a smell for the goal´ - Wenger hails hat-trick hero Lucas|
|Guardiola to assess Roberts situation at end of season|
|Napoli have no fear - Reina|
|Iheanacho shines but Guardiola concerns lie deeper|
|Barcelona pass masters set new Champions League benchmark|
|Dybala ready to return for Juventus|
|PSV 0 Rostov 0: Russians seal Europa League spot with stalemate|
|Paris Saint-Germain 2 Ludogorets 2: Di Maria rescues draw but PSG miss out on top spot|
|Benfica 1 Napoli 2: Super-sub Mertens seals top spot|
|Dynamo Kiev 6 Besiktas 0: Nine-man visitors crash out|
|Messi fails to match Ronaldo´s Champions League record|
|Basel 1 Arsenal 4: Lucas hat-trick helps Gunners clinch top spot|
|Manchester City 1 Celtic 1: Roberts scores against parent club|
|Bayern Munich 1 Atletico Madrid 0: Lewandowski free-kick the difference in Bavaria|
|Barcelona 4 Borussia Monchengladbach 0: Arda hat-trick lights up Barca procession|
|Zidane ´more sympathetic´ than other Madrid coaches, says Ramos|
|Bartra eager to square up against old rivals Madrid|
|Pardew´s job is ´totally safe´ - Palace chairman|
|Shelvey and Dummett red card appeals successful|
|Lopes doubtful for Sevilla clash due to lack of sleep|
|Real Madrid test will bring the best out of Aubameyang - Tuchel|
|Slutsky to leave CSKA Moscow|
|Genesio hails Valbuena character|
|Spurs hungry for Europa League football - Vertonghen|
|Deschamps claims Pogba is unlikely to ever win Ballon d´Or|
|Xavi: Barca have not lost their essence|
|Strootman banned for sparking Rome derby brawl|
|Mkhitaryan accepts blame for slow start at United|
|New York City star Villa named MLS MVP|
|Ramos distances himself from tax avoidance scandal|
|Witsel casts doubt on January Juventus switch|
|Schmidt has faith in misfiring Hernandez|
|Gabriel not happy at Inter, says agent|
|PSG just another game for returning Balotelli|
|Dortmund eye top spot and a goalscoring record - Champions League in Opta numbers|
|Southgate bids farewell to England assistant Lee|
|Europa League can help Spurs end Wembley hoodoo - Pochettino|
|Watmore´s season ended by injury|
|Zidane: Dortmund clash is a final|
|Gotze to miss Madrid test|
|Lacazette to ponder Lyon future|
|Griezmann lauds ´world class´ Aubameyang|
|Sporting´s in-demand Gelson going nowhere, claims agent|
|FA appoints new lead QC as scope of child sexual abuse review is outlined|
|Hodgson: England players failed to grasp my instructions|
|Xhaka pleads for time to settle in at Arsenal|
|Kluivert urges PSG to learn from Montpellier humbling|
|Augenthaler tips Bayern captain Lahm to play on|
|Rodgers: Celtic growing in confidence in Europe|
|Brazil-Colombia friendly proposed to raise money for Chapecoense|
|If you don´t play, you can´t shine - Hummels urges Mourinho to believe in Mkhitaryan|
|Ronaldinho ready to help Chapecoense|
|United can still finish top four - Guardiola|
|Bale´s ankle ´feeling better every day´|
|Sarri: Napoli in Lisbon to win|
|Watford and West Brom hit with FA charge|