New Delhi: A goal three minutes from time at the Emirates put Arsenal into the knock-out stage of the Champions League for the sixth successive season and lifted some of the negativity that had surrounded the Gunners in recent days.
The new Arsenal era under the leadership of 21-year-old Cesc Fabregas got underway at the Emirates against Dynamo Kiev with as much focus on the man he succeeded, William Gallas, as on the Catalan playmaker himself.
Manager Arsene Wenger, unable to call on eight injured first-teamers, selected a starting XI team that included youngsters Aaron Ramsey, Carlos Vela and Johan Djourou - and with a bench populated by five teenagers. If there was a somewhat unbalanced feel about the Gunners it might have been because there were seven left-footers in the line-up.
Once the action got under way, Dynamo's goalkeeper Stanislav Bogush needed to stand tall to deny Ramsey when the 17-year-old Welshman collected a Carlos Vela cross and fired a shot goalwards.
Dutchman Robin van Persie showed his threat from set-pieces when he fired in a free-kick from the right that Bogush did well to punch away from a crowded area.
Vela then did well on the left and sent in a cross that eluded a line of Kiev defenders before Ramsey raced onto it but could only lash it wide.
The busy Vela found Van Persie with another cross, but when the striker switched it to his favoured left foot to shoot, Bogush saved it, though the Dynamo keeper appeared not to feel confident about catching the ball, and had to collect it at the second attempt.
Arsenal were playing some neat football, but lacking a cutting edge, and Dynamo were organised and very solid in defence, showing why they have conceded relatively few goals in this European campaign.
The Gunners were missing Emmanuel Adebayor's forward runs and leadership of the line, and the counter-attacking wing speed and trickery of Theo Walcott, with Denilson peripheral on the flank.
Poor Gallas, who looked sombre and subdued, nearly made unwanted headlines shortly before half-time, when a lapse in concentration allowed the dangerous Ismael Bangura to dispossess him and burst through on goal but shoot rather than pass, clipping the outside of Almunia's post.
Van Persie responded by firing in another dangerous free-kick from the right that Mikael Silvestre got to before Bogush but could only knee the ball over the bar from point-blank range.
On the stroke of half-time Gallas flicked the ball into the net from a corner but the Kiev defence had moved out en masse and the ex-captain was left in an offside position, as the linesman's flag confirmed.
Arsenal had built a decent platform but struggled to knit things together in the final third, while Kiev showed flashes of why they are top in Ukraine.
Shortly after the start of the second-half, Fabregas took a free-kick from wide on the left and the ball broke to Van Persie who fired at goal, but the ball struck the hapless Gallas, who effectively but unwittingly blocked it just in front of the line.
It was a fairly disjointed start to the second period, but Dynamo looked more purposeful going forward, and Aliev blazed over before Bangoura fired a shot wide to give a warning to the London side.
Dynamo were playing at a higher tempo, with Aliev more influential. He fired at goal and Almunia had to smother it with Bangoura ready to snap up any loose ball.
Bogush punched a Fabregas corner clear and Dynamo broke quickly with four against three, but Gael Clichy did well to snuff out the danger. In central midfield, with Alexandre Song looking harrassed, Arsenal were struggling to wrest control, and their lack of a goal threat was giving Kiev encouragement.
In response, Wenger made his first change after 69 minutes, sending on the pink-booted Nicklas Bendtner for Ramsey.
A minute later, Aliev let himself down abysmally when, rolling around on the ground in apparent agony, he spotted that Kiev were launching an attack and leapt up like a hare to join in. Classic, but ugly, simulation, which he was lucky to get away with.
When the ill-at-ease Song brought down Artem Milevskiy, Wenger used the moment to send on Jack Wilshere for Vela, and so make Wilshere the youngest Arsenal player to appear in senior European competition.
From the resulting free-kick, Milevskiy had a chance to score but was superbly thwarted by the alert Almunia, who saved at point-blank range to give Arsenal a mighty reprieve.
And almost immediately after that, the Gunners scored the decisive goal.
After the referee stopped play so that Djourou could receive treatment, he restarted it with a dropped ball. Fabregas won it, and as Kiev players backed off, he hit a sublime long pass into the path of Bendtner, who chested it down, took it forward and shot low into the net between Bogush and his near post. The Kiev players were angry about the goal, but basically they lost concentration, fatally as it happened.
In their frustration, Aliyev was shown a straight red card for trying to manhandle the referee away from the ball in order to take a free-kick quickly.
The final whistle soon followed, with Arsenal safely through and the Fabregas era having begun on a winning note. The Gunners remain unbeaten at the Emirates in the Champions League, but must now prepare to meet Premier League leaders Chelsea in a major domestic clash...
Arsenal: Almunia, Djourou, Gallas, Silvestre, Clichy, Denilson, Fabregas, Song Billong, Ramsey, Vela, Van Persie.
Subs: Fabianski, Wilshere, Bendtner, Gibbs, Hoyte, Merida, Simpson.
Dynamo Kiev: Bogush, Betao, Diakhate, Asatiani, El Kaddouri, Eremenko, Vukojevic, Ghioane, Aliev, Milevskiy, Bangoura.
Subs: Shovkovskiy, Dopilka, Sablic, Correa, Shatskikh, Cernat, Yarmolenko.