By Tom J Doyle
Talk about doing it the hard way. Two goals down after eight minutes, nine years without silverware hanging heavy around the Arsenal necks, another final disappointment looming large.
But the pessimists reckoned without Aaron Ramsey.
With nerves frayed and penalties lying ahead, it was fitting that the Welsh midfielder - a source of so much hope this season before injuries robbed Arsenal of his services for a large spell of the campaign - prodded home the winner with 11 minutes remaining.
So often the scapegoat for the side's troubles last season, the Ramsey redemption is complete after returning from injury to win the cup for his side to cap a memorable season.
The last time the Gunners lifted silverware, Patrick Viera played his last game for the club, and Arsene Wenger has been searching for a true replacement ever since. With 10 goals in the Premier League and eight assists, as well as a fiercely combative presence, he may just have found it in 'Rambo'.
Nine years without a trophy is too long a wait for a team of Arsenal's calibre, an aberration given the quality of players that have passed through their doors in the past decade. That wait is now over, and it is surely time for the Gunners to move forward.
|10/1||Arsenal are 10/1 with bet365 to win next season's Premier League|
With the greatest respect to the FA Cup, it is not on the same level as the Premier League or the Champions League, and greater challenges than turning the tide against the Tigers will lie ahead if Wenger is to add to the Emirates trophy cabinet.
But Ramsey and his team-mates will not care one jot as they celebrate sweet silverware once again - though how they do that is open to debate.
"You have to sacrifice yourself for this job," Wenger told ITV before the game. Despite the trophy success, the inescapable question will remain over whether it is time for Wenger to make the ultimate sacrifice for Arsenal to progress.
Wenger's contract is up at the end of this season, and while he has committed his future verbally, he has yet to do so in writing.
It is more than likely that Wenger will remain in charge next season - he confirmed as much after the game - and he must build a side capable of competing for further honours; otherwise, he may find that even more of his prized assets go the same way of Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Robin van Persie and, more than likely, Bacary Sagna in searching for success further north.
But in Ramsey, he has a talent capable of fashioning a world-class team around. Arsenal have won every game in which Ramsey has scored this season, and it is no coincidence that the Gunners' title ambitions faded with the midfielder's injury troubles.
In some ways, this hard-fought victory could be better for Arsenal's young stars than a breezy win over Hull. To come back from the initial shock of a two-goal deficit and land the trophy will serve them well for future challenges, and will teach them not to underestimate the profound effect that a sense of occasion can bring to a side on any given day.
The doubt that has stalked the Arsenal camp this season like a creeping death can now be dispensed with as they are finally trophy winners once again, the name of this famous club engraved in silverware once more.
The FA Cup belongs to Arsenal and the long wait is over, but the clock starts ticking again from next season. There can be no more transfer market indecision, no more injury excuses, and no more choking on the biggest occasions.
For Ramsey, the sky is the limit. He told ITV after the game that winning the trophy "is what it is all about"; if he can stay fit next season, Arsenal could well add to their trophy cabinet, and become the team that Wenger knows they can be.
'The Professor' has spent nearly 20 years managing Arsenal, but in many ways, the 2014-15 season will become his Year Zero. He is no longer a "specialist in failure", but the hard work starts now.
If ever there was a player to lead the club into a new era of dominance, it is the heir to Viera's throne - Aaron Ramsey.