LONDON: Arsenal suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in their history as League Two minnows Bradford City clinched a stunning triumph on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the League Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday.
The Gunners have endured a traumatic campaign that included their worst start to a Premier League campaign in manager Arsene Wenger's 16-year reign, but this was a new low for a club now in the midst of a full-blown crisis.
Not even Arsenal's most ardent critic would have believed they could produce such a spineless display against a team from English football's fourth tier.
After Bradford midfielder Garry Thompson took advantage of woeful Arsenal defending to volley home a free-kick at the far post in the 16th minute, Phil Parkinson's side must have expected to be tested to the limit by their illustrious opponents at Valley Parade.
But instead a strong Arsenal team took until the 88th minute to equalise when Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen headed home from a Santi Cazorla cross.
The Gunners were just as laboured in extra-time and they paid the price in the penalty shoot-out, which Bradford won 3-2 as Cazorla's kick was saved by Matt Duke and Marouane Chamakh and Vermaelen both hit the post.
Bradford's ninth successive penalty shoot-out victory booked their first ever appearance in the League Cup semi-finals.
In the other league cup match, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert enjoyed a memorable return to Norwich as his side romped into the League Cup semi-finals with a 4-1 win at Carrow Road.
But Lambert could afford to ignore the jeers of the vocal home crowd as two late goals from Andreas Weimann sealed victory for Villa after Brett Holman cancelled out Steve Morison's opener for the hosts.
In Tuesday night's only Premier league clash, Sunderland eased the pressure on under-fire manager Martin O'Neill with a crucial 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Reading.