For 10 grim minutes, Wenger had on his "baleful cat" expression but talent had its way in the end, and the relief at Highbury became complete when Thierry Henry dabbed home his second goal of the night from substitute Mathieu Flamini's pass after 82 minutes, taking his total of Arsenal goals to 184 - one short of Ian Wright's record.
Relief gave way to jubilation a minute into injury time as Pascal Cygan scored his second goal of the match from a Dennis Bergkamp cross.
Arsenal, as predicted, fielded Jose Antonio Reyes in place of the injured Freddie Ljungberg, and Bergkamp was also present after passing a test on his injured back. But there was no place even on the bench for Philippe Senderos, the 20-year-old central defender whom Arsenal's manager Wenger admitted had allowed his mistake in allowing Didier Drogba to score Chelsea's winner on Sunday to affect him.
Senderos was replaced by Cygan, who despite looking less than secure on a couple of occasions, managed to be in the right place at the right time to bring the hosts level after a lapse of concentration had allowed Fulham to take a lead they did not remotely deserve after 22 minutes.
Wenger had offered a calculated snipe at Chelsea's cautious tactics in the match programme, remarking that what had been missing on Sunday "was that only one of the teams was playing football".
He nevertheless concluded that Arsenal needed to pass the ball more swiftly to capitalise on their ample possession, and the way his players began it looked as if he had just made the point more forcefully, with Reyes and Aleksandr Hleb being particularly effective.
When another swift forward pass from Hleb after seven minutes allowed Henry to take on Zat Knight in the box, the Fulham defender clumsily bundled him over to offer an ideal early opportunity for Arsenal to settle themselves into the match.
Henry disdained the spot kick - he apparently feels uncomfortable about taking penalties he has earned himself - but in Lauren, who has scored from the spot in the Olympic final for Cameroon, and the FA Cup final for his club, the home side appeared to have a secure replacement.
Lauren's kick, however, was beaten away by the Fulham keeper Tony Warner, and a tiny touch of doubt entered the home side's soul. Bergkamp appeared to have a chance of putting Arsenal in front after 21 minutes from Henry's cross, but that old Arsenal weakness, over-elaboration, took over as he knocked the ball back rather than shooting.
And within 30 seconds the Dutchman's side were a goal down after Tomasz Radzinski's swift cross from the left found Claus Jensen unattended in the area and the Dane lifted an exquisite shot over the despairing grasp of Jens Lehmann.
Wenger's opposite number, Chris Coleman, had arrived at Highbury seeking a solid performance. Jensen's inspired strike briefly opened up the heady prospect of something better until Bergkamp made another of his crucial interventions in the 32nd minute, bending a free-kick that practically begged to be touched in, and was, by Cygan's bald pate.
The second half was only eight minutes old when the celebrations emanated from Henry after he had run onto another smart chip forward from Reyes to put Arsenal into the lead with a low cross-shot.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Lauren, Touré, Cygan, Cole; Hleb (Clichy, 83), Fabregas, Gilberto, Reyes (Flamini, 77); Bergkamp, Henry. Substitutes not used: Pires, Van Persie, Almunia (gk).
Fulham (4-5-1): Warner; Volz, Knight, Rehman, N Jensen; C Jensen, Diop, Boa Morte, Malbranque, Radzinski; McBride (John, 64). Substitutes not used: Helguson, Elrich, Batista (gk), Leacock.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).Reuse content