Arsenal won a third FA Cup final in four season at the expense of Premier League champions Chelsea at Wembley Stadium, upsetting the odds and handing Arséne Wenger a record seventh triumph in football's oldest knock-out competition.
Chelsea were heavily backed to achieve the domestic double when news emerged that Wenger would be without most of his first choice defence and Petr Cech would be on the bench with David Ospina between the sticks for the showpiece game. But Arsenal's stand-ins stood out with Ospina making some vital stops and Per Mertesacker rolling back the years in his first start in 14 months, in which he forged an impressive partnership with 20-year-old centre half Rob Holding.
Chelsea aided and abetted Arsenal's early vim with a sluggish start and Alexis Sánchez opened the scoring in the fourth minute when Conte's own much-vaunted back line failed to clear. The ball fell to the Chilean - and Chelsea would complain bitterly after the goal was confirmed by the linesman and the referee in conference that it also fell onto his hand - beat Thibaut Courtois with after bundling through the Chelsea defence and firing a low shot into the corner.
Arsenal had chances to extend their lead in the first half, Danny Welbeck hitting the post with a hader and Gary Cahill clearing spectacularly off the line before Welbeck wriggled through and prodded a goal bound shot past Courtois, only to be denied again by the England defender.
Chelsea levelled after the break through Diego Costa, who held off the challenge of Holding to steer a shot past Ospina with the slightest of deflections from Mertesacker but Chelsea's rally was brief and Arsenal gradually assumed the ascendancy again with Conte's men tiring. Ramsey, who scored the winner in the 4-3 victory over Hull three years ago, was again Arsenal's hero as he stole into the area to meet an Olivier Giroud cross - the Frenchman's first touch of the game after replacing Welbeck - to send the Arsenal fans into rapture and temporarily heal the rift between them and the Arsenal manager that has provided the backdrop to a season of disappointment that finally ended in cup glory a cessation of internal hostilities.
Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea: as it happened
Arsenal vs Chelsea: FA Cup final preview
Arsenal and Chelsea will contest the FA Cup final in Wembley Stadium with Antonio Conte standing the cusp of an historic double and Arsene Wenger staring into an uncertain future as the empire he built engages in open revolt against his leadership.
In many ways it is a double-edged sword for Arsenal’s Wenger Out campaigners: win, and the veteran Frenchman will feel vindicated and may well stay on at the Emirates. Lose, and the chances increase that Wenger will decide to call it a day. Even in victory the 67-year-old may feel that bringing his storied reign at the Gunners to a close on a high note would be more a fitting exit.
In any case, the fat lady is invariably Italian and the majority of observers can see little other outcome than Conte’s all-conquering side taking their league form into the match. Chelsea won the title with the second-highest points total in Premier League history and having won 30 games, another Premier League record.
Wenger faces a headache at the back with Laurent Koscielny suspended and Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi both injured, leaving the Frenchman to consider a central defensive partnership of Per Mertesacker, who has not started a competitive game in over a year, and 20-year-old Rob Holding.
Given the situation, Wenger could see attack as the best form of defence and may unshackle Alexis Sánchez, Mesut Özil and company as he did in a 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, which proved the catalyst for Conte’s switch to his now much-vaunted 3-4-3 and Premier League glory.
Conte has his full array of talent available for Wembley and, barring any mawkish sentimentality involving John Terry, will field the side that fired him to the Premier League title in his first season as he seeks to emulate Kenny Dalglish and Carlo Ancelotti in claiming the double in his maiden campaign in England.
PFA player of the year N’Golo Kante will patrol the midfield but it is Diego Costa to who all eyes will turn. The FA Cup final could represent the Spain striker’s final game in a Chelsea shirt with rumours of a big-money payday in China rife and the Premier League’s pantomime villain will relish the prospect of one last day on the stage, the cries of “he’s behind you” from the stands aimed firmly in the direction of the raw Holding and the creaking Mertesacker.
In support Eden Hazard is a player who enjoys the big occasion and another superlative performance from the Belgian after a season spent at his impish best may prove too much for Arsenal to handle with Costa occupying the central defenders.
Arsenal vs Chelsea live online: confirmed line-ups
Arsenal XI: Ospina; Mertesacker, Holding, Monreal; Bellerín, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Xhaka; Özil, Sánchez, Welbeck
Chelsea XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kanté, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Costa, Hazard
Arsenal vs Chelsea: betting odds
Chelsea are the clear favourites to complete a domestic double in the bookies' eyes, with Antonio Conte's men priced at just under 2/1 and Arsenal valued at a little below 5/1 to lift their third cup in four years.