Arsenal surrendered a two-goal lead as they drew 2-2 with Schalke in Gelsenkirchen to keep their hopes of making the next phase of the Champions League firmly in the balance.
The Gunners appeared to be putting their recent poor form behind them as a Theo Walcott strike and a first Champions League goal for Olivier Giroud gave them an early advantage. But after Klaas-Jan Huntelaar struck just before the break, Jefferson Farfan equalized in the second half.
The result leaves Group B on a knife edge with two games to go as Arsenal trail leaders Schalke by a point, but hold the same narrow margin over third placed Olympiakos.
Looking to pick up where they left off from their convincing 2-0 win at the Emirates two weeks ago, Schalke began the game in command. But having survived the early spell of pressure, it was Arsenal that grabbed the lead in the 18th minute.
Some poor defending after a long ball forward looked to have put Olivier Giroud through for the opening goal. A fine saving challenge from Benedikt Howedes prevented the immediate danger but only presented the ball to Walcott, who dinked the ball over the goalkeeper before sliding into the empty net.
It would not take long for Arsenal to increase their advantage as they struck once more in the 26th minute. With Schalke unable to clear on the edge of their own box, the ball was played out to the left and Lukas Podolski. The German slipped but recovered superbly create enough space to whip in a near post cross that rendered the Schalke defense motionless enabling Giroud to head strongly past Lars Unnerstall.
Schalke grabbed what always looked like being a crucial goal back deep into first-half injury time. After Santi Cazorla conceded possession, the half-British Lewis Holtby played in the prolific Huntelaar, who made no mistake in drilling the ball low across Vito Mannone and into the corner of the net from 14 yards.
Unsurprisingly, the goal spurred Schalke on at the start of the second period and they firmly grasped the initiative. After several near misses, Huub Stevens’ side leveled the match midway through the half. Holtby failed to make clean contact with a header from 10 yards following a left-wing cross and the ball broke to Farfan at the back post who took a touch before driving the ball into the back of the net off of the outstretched boot of Thomas Vermaelen.
Schalke continued to press in search of a winner, but after Holtby had missed a chance to play in Huntelaar, Walcott missed a golden opportunity to secure a vital three points with virtually the last action of the match.