Michael Owen produced a virtuoso late show to shatter Arsenal and give Liverpool the FA Cup at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Liverpool’s red-hot star struck twice in the last eight minutes to break Arsenal’s hearts after Arsene Wenger’s side had dominated for long periods.
Arsenal were rewarded for incessant pressure when Freddie Ljungberg gave them the lead with 20 minutes left.
But Liverpool somehow roused themselves from a lifeless performance – with Owen as a magnificent spearhead – to take the cup in the most dramatic fashion.
Owen struck a double to stun Arsenal as they started to celebrate and write another incredible chapter into FA Cup history.
He equalised with eight minutes left, then settled matters single-handedly with a stunning winner three minutes from the end as he left a trail of Arsenal defenders in his wake to score.
It gave Liverpool their second domestic cup competition in Cardiff, adding the FA Cup to the Worthington Cup won earlier this season.
And it was third time lucky for Liverpool, who have lost two previous FA Cup Finals to Arsenal.
Owen did not even play when Liverpool won The Worthington Cup against Birmingham City – now they travel to face Alaves in the Uefa Cup Final in Dortmund ready to make history.
Liverpool are also on course for a Champions League place if they win their final Premier League game of the season at Charlton Athletic.
Arsenal will wonder forever how they failed to win, with Wenger sure to be angry about a penalty appeal turned down in the first half when Stephane Henchoz handled on the line from Thierry Henry.
And they will also regret a succession of missed chances, with Liverpool captain Sami Hyypia making three goal-line clearances.
Houllier and Wenger both had key selection issues to resolve – and neither shirked the big responsibility.
Robbie Fowler was the victim of Houllier’s decision to halt his attacking rotation policy, as he was out in the cold when Liverpool went with Emile Heskey and Owen up front.
Arsenal boss Wenger resisted the temptation to recall Dennis Bergkamp after a length absence through injury, pairing Henry and Sylvain Wiltord.
Heskey was involved in the first contentious moment after six minutes, when he tumbled under a challenge from Gilles Grimandi, but referee Steve Dunn rightly waved away penalty appeals.
Arsenal saw their own penalty protests ignored ten minutes later – and they had every right to be furious.
Ljungberg brilliantly released Henry, and when he skipped around Liverpool goalkeeper Westerveld he was clearly denied by the arm of Henchoz on the goal-line.
The officials failed to spot the offence, which could have had dire consequences for Henchoz and Liverpool.
Liverpool were intent on adopting a counter-attacking appoach, allowing Arsenal space and possession until they reached the danger area.
It was a high-risk strategy, but a ploy that has worked well for Liverpool as they chase a trophy treble in a mammoth season.
Arsenal had dominated the opening exchanges, but it made for a frustrating first half stalemate as two members of the Premiership elite were reduced to sparring.
The tempo of the game was also being affected by blistering Cardiff temperatures and the sluggish nature of the re-turfed pitch at The Millennium Stadium.
Liverpool finally gave David Seaman an anxious moment two minutes after the interval as Houllier’s side finally hinted at menace.
Danny Murphy’s free-kick was met by Heskey’s head as he muscled his way into the penalty area, but he was only able to direct his effort straight at Seaman, who pushed it to safety.
Liverpool had a remarkable escape after 56 minutes after a moment of brilliance and invention from Henry.
The French striker juggled the ball past Westerveld, leaving Ashley Cole with what appeared to be the easiest of chances as the ball ran loose.
England youngster Cole stabbed the ball goalwards, but Liverpool captain Hyypia cleared off the line.
Arsenal scented a goal, and Liverpool made the change on the hour when veteran Gary McAllister replaced the struggling Dietmar Hamann, who had just been booked for a foul on Patrick Vieira.
It was Hyypia to the rescue again after 67 minutes when he was again the saviour on Liverpool’s line, heading out a Ljungberg lob.
Arsenal were suffering frustration in the extreme – but they experienced joy when they finally made the breakthrough with 19 minutes left.
Goalkeeper Westerveld had a nightmare moment with a poor defensive clearance, and when Robert Pires played Ljungberg in the Swede rounded the Dutchman and scored with ease.