Arsenal booked a place in the semi finals as they put an end to Lincoln City's fairytale FA Cup run with a convincing 5-0 victory that will come as a welcome boost to the under-fire Arsene Wenger.
The Imps were the first non-league side in over a century to reach the last eight, but couldn't pull off what would have been arguably the greatest shock in the competition's history as the Gunners eventually made their superior class count at Emirates Stadium.
Danny Cowley's underdogs frustrated the hosts and were unlucky not to go in level at the break as Theo Walcott's composed finish lifted the mood amongst the home support, who once again flashed banners calling for their manager to bring his long reign to an end prior to kick off.
Second-half goals from Olivier Giroud, Luke Waterfall (og), Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey completed the job as the gulf in status between the teams finally told.
The intense glare of a negative media spotlight has been focused firmly on Wenger in recent weeks, with the manner of their annihilation in the Champions League last 16 heaping more pressure on the Frenchman. Any slip against the National League hopefuls would surely have been the final nail in his managerial coffin, but in the end the Premier League side eased into an FA Cup semi final for the third time in four seasons.
Lincoln's Wembley dream may be over, but they can now focus their attention on clinching promotion and an FA Trophy semi final with York City under the leadership of an impressive young manager in Cowley.
Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (left) and Lincoln City's Bradley Wood battle for the ball
Image credit: PA Sport
TALKING POINT - Respite for Wenger
This was a potential banana skin, but it was also the ideal home draw for the Gunners. Wenger has endured a tough time this season, but can at least look forward to another trip to Wembley now. Arsenal need to batten down the hatches, pull together and start getting their league campaign back on track.
A top four finish and another FA Cup triumph would be a successful season for most clubs, but some Gooners feel they are underachieving and that has resulted in something of a civil war. It may not be enough to save his job, but lifting the trophy would still be a great way to sign off by anyone's standards.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Theo Walcott (Arsenal): The forward always looked the most likely source to break Lincoln's resistance, and took what was a crucial first goal well. He also hit the post and was composed on the ball throughout.
Lincoln's Jonathan Jack Muldoon and Arsenal's Theo Walcott at the end of the match
14' - ARSENAL CHANCE! Walcott cracks a volley from the edge of the box that Farman does well to parry onto the post.
29' - LINCOLN CITY CHANCE! Nathan Arnold surges into the right of the area. He jinks inside Koscielny and fires a shot towards the corner that Cech just about manages to push to safety. So close for the non-league side!
45+1' - GOAL! ARSENAL 1-0 LINCOLN CITY. Relief for Wenger. Walcott coolly passes the ball into the corner after Gibbs had shown good composure to touch it back into his path. Lincoln pay the price for failing to clear the left wing corner.
51' - ARSENAL CHANCE! Farman produces a great save to keep out Giroud's low drive from the left of the area. Walcott rescues it and crosses for Gibbs, who someone heads way over the top.
53' - GOAL! ARSENAL 2-0 LINCOLN CITY. It's two and surely curtains for Lincoln. Bellerin exchanges a one-two with Sanchez and cuts it back for Giroud to fire into the corner.
58' - GOAL! ARSENAL 3-0 LINCOLN CITY. Arsenal are on their way to the semi finals. Sanchez feeds Gibbs on the overlap and Waterfall can only prod the left back's cutback into his own net.
73' - GOAL! ARSENAL 4-0 LINCOLN CITY. Sanchez makes it four. He skips beyond a challenge and curls it into the far corner from 20 yards.
75' - GOAL! ARSENAL 5-0 LINCOLN CITY. Sanchez picks up a terrible pass on the left of the area. He bewitches two before crossing for Ramsey who walks it in at the far post.
86' - ARSENAL CHANCE! Sanchez curves the free kick from just outside the area against the crossbar.
Arsenal's Theo Walcott celebrates scoring their first goal with team mates
Image credit: Reuters
This was Arsenal’s 300th competitive fixture at the Emirates.
The Gunners registered their 200th win in competitive games at the Emirates (D61 L39).
Lincoln City failed to find the back of the net in an FA Cup game (excl. qualifiers) for the first time in nine games, since losing 5-0 to Plymouth in November 2013.
Arsenal have reached the last four of the FA Cup for the third time in the last four seasons.
Theo Walcott has scored 17 goals in all competitions this season; only in 2012/13 did he score more for the Gunners (21).
Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in 35 goals this season (21 goals, 14 assists), more than any other PL player in all comps
In his last 20 games in all competitions, Sanchez has either scored or assisted 22 goals (13 goals, nine assists).
Olivier Giroud has bagged four goals in total in his last four FA Cup starts.
Arsenal’s games this season in all competitions have produced a total of 145 goals (95 scored, 50 conceded), more than any other Premier League side.
Mesut Ozil registered his first assist for Arsenal in any competition since January 22nd (vs Burnley), after a run of five games without one.