With the managers, Arsène Wenger and Martin Jol, squaring up on the touchline, arguments between the suited and booted in the directors' box, and the honesty and morality of Spurs' players and staff being called into question, the last local scrap at the Art Deco masterpiece proved as explosive as any.
When the insults had finished echoing through the marble halls, the upshot was the realisation that Arsenal may well have to win the Champions' League to qualify for next season's competition. That this would deny Spurs a place only added to the sweetness of the thought, though Wenger insisted through pursed lips that winning it for its own sake was motivation enough.
Arsenal's prospects of doing so were hampered by the knee injury which forced Philippe Senderos off inside the hour. That will probably result in Sol Campbell being forced back into action for the semi-final, second leg at Villarreal tomorrow. Wenger may not make a decision until after training today, by which time he may just have calmed down.
Watching him eyeballing the physically imposing Jol made Sir Alex Ferguson's recollection of Wenger running down the Old Trafford tunnel, "hands raised", during "the battle of the buffet" in 2004 less startling. He was still fuming after the match, accusing Jol of "lying" and Spurs' players of being unsporting.
The incident which sparked the row came 66 minutes into a match hitherto dominated by Tottenham without reward. Emmanuel Eboué and Gilberto Silva ran into each other in midfield. Referee Steve Bennett, having checked neither were seriously injured, allowed play to continue. Michael Carrick, the game's outstanding player, then released Edgar Davids into the area usually occupied by Eboué. The Dutchman crossed, Robbie Keane tapped in, and all hell broke loose.
In the directors' box one of Tottenham's non-executive directors celebrated ostentatiously, prompting an angry reaction from Keith Edelman, Arsenal's managing director. On the pitch, Jens Lehmann and Robert Pires confronted Davids. On the touchline Wenger and Jol all but imitated two rutting stags. "He doesn't know how strong I am, otherwise he wouldn't approach me with a head-butt," smirked an unrepentant Jol afterwards. He was though, "disappointed" to be called a liar, insisting he had not seen Eboué on the ground.
Much reference was made afterwards to Arsenal's decision to replay their 1999 FA Cup tie with Sheffield United when Marc Overmars scored after United had put the ball out but this incident was different and not as clear-cut. The ball was in play, no one was seriously injured, indeed, it is not clear the Spurs players involved were aware that Eboué had stayed down. "Carrick told me he didn't see Emmanuel on the ground and I've known Edgar Davids for a very long time and he's an honest guy. They both told me that they didn't see it and I want to believe them," said Thierry Henry.
Wenger was less sanguine but he admitted his touchline contortions were caused as much by frustration at his own team as with Spurs' goal. With the volatile Davids having been dismissed for one wild challenge too many, Arsenal untypically played to Tottenham's strengths, pumping long balls forward instead of trying to outmanoeuvre the 10 men.
This was especially feckless given Henry's sublime equaliser following good work on the flank, and a slide-rule pass, by Emmanuel Adebayor.
Henry, like Fabregas, had been kept in reserve on the bench until the hour and Arsenal's lack of direction and penetration without them only confirmed the validity of Wenger's decision, given the importance of tomorrow's tie. However, it also handed Spurs the initiative and Carrick, especially, seized it. One hopes his calm display of passing and disciplined positioning was not lost on Sven Goran Eriksson, nor Aaron Lennon's destruction of the argument that Mathieu Flamini could retain his place even if Ashley Cole regains fitness.
Jermaine Defoe was less impressive but with Keane playing as well as he has ever done, Michael Dawson growing in stature at the back, and the likes of Teemu Tainio useful adjuncts to Carrick, Jol is understandably pleased at his team's development. For the first time in a decade, Arsenal have a serious challenger in the neighbourhood, which will not do anything to defuse the tension next time they meet.
Goals: Keane (66) 0-1; Henry (84) 1-1.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Djourou, Touré, Senderos (Eboué, 54), Flamini; Pires, Gilberto, Diaby (Fabregas, 62), Reyes; Adebayor, Van Persie (Henry, 62). Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Song.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, Gardner, Lee; Lennon (Murphy, 77), Carrick, Davids, Tainio; Defoe, Keane. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Naybet, Kelly, Barnard.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Booked: Arsenal Pires; Tottenham Davids. Sent off: Tottenham Davids (85).
Man of the match: Carrick.
Attendance: 38,326.Reuse content