LONDON (AP) -Mikel Arteta halted Arsenal's slump by producing a late goal to ensure Jack Wilshere's much-heralded return from injury was marked with a 1-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League on Saturday.
After being repeatedly thwarted by QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar, Arsenal's breakthrough came after the bottom-place visitors had defender Stephane M'Bia sent off in the 80th minute.
Olivier Giroud's initial header from Andrei Arshavin's cross was saved by Cesar but Arteta pounced to head against the bar and he then prodded the rebound into the net.
The 84th-minute winner came after successive losses in the league and Champions League had again cast doubt on Arsenal's ability to end a trophy drought stretching back to 2005 - frustration voiced by fans at a stormy annual general meeting on Thursday.
"I am very happy with the result because we lost two big games and you could see the confidence was a bit jaded," manager Arsene Wenger said. "But we were serious and we moved the ball quite well. We needed to be patient."
Arsenal is now up to fourth from ninth in the league, and Wilshere successfully came through 67 minutes.
"The confidence of the team was a bit jaded and sometimes players with experience and quality give a lift," Wenger said.
"You could see technically (Wilshere) is there and overall I think he gave absolutely everything," he added. "What he still misses is the pace of the game, the rhythm of the game."
Roars greeted Wilshere's first in touch in a competitive Arsenal match since May 2011.
Back then, before persistent ankle and knee injuries sidelined him for an entire season, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri were still teammates.
Wilshere said he felt like he was returning to a new team, but it's one without the potency of the 2011 incarnation, and one where the burden of providing the flair is falling on the 20-year-old.
"Last time I played it was with Fabregas and Nasri and now there's Arteta and (Santi) Cazorla so it's like a new team and a new me," Wilshere said. "It's been very tough for me, for any player who's been injured it's tough. ... You question yourself every day, `Are you going to get back to that level?"'
Initially against QPR he showed signs of living up to the hype that built during his time on the sidelines by providing verve but he later faded.
There was an attempt to break the deadlock, but a low shot from the edge of the area in the 20th lacked the power to prevent Cesar making a low save.
Another returning player also made an early impact, with defender Bacary Sagna on his first appearance of the season providing a cross that Aaron Ramsey headed onto the crossbar.
But Arsenal was not as dangerous again until later in the match.
Giroud, who has scored just one league goal since arriving in the offseason to replace Van Persie, proved ineffective again, only testing Cesar once, with a shot on the half-hour spilled by the goalkeeper.
The importance assigned to Wilshere's return was highlighted by the anxiety at the Emirates Stadium whenever he appeared in discomfort.
There was a scare at the start of the second half when the midfielder went down after being fouled by Esteban Granero. But after going down with his left leg in pain, Wilshere was able to return to action and continue until Theo Walcott replaced him in the 67th.
But the much-needed goal didn't look like coming.
Per Mertesacker's header from Arteta's free kick had been pushed away by Cesar, and Cazorla squandered a fine opening in the 78th when he blasted the ball over when he was in space in the penalty area.
Arsenal quickly managed to make its man advantage count after M'Bia was dismissed for kicking out at Thomas Vermaelen while on the ground after being fouled by the rival defender.
"The sending off is a disappointment because we were given the initial free kick," QPR manager Mark Hughes said.
And there was disappointment that Arteta's goal was allowed to stand, with Hughes complaining to the referee after the match.
"Arteta is offside twice," Hughes said. "He is offside with the initial header that the `keeper saves, and in the melee he is in an offside position and scores."
The visitors were still given space to press for a stoppage-time equalizer. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone, though, was alert to deny Jamie Mackie and protect the win.