Arsenal 3 Everton 1
Arsenal showed the kind of fighting spirit they will need to stay the course in the Barclays Premier League title race after coming from behind to beat Everton 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger was forced to field a reshuffled defence because of injuries to captain William Gallas and Bacary Sagna, but the new-look back four was exposed after just nine minutes when Leon Osman put the visitors ahead.
However, after another enforced change when Kolo Toure was forced off at half-time because of a shoulder problem and England winger Theo Walcott was introduced from the bench, the team had better balance and soon drew level through Samir Nasri.
Robin van Persie – who on another day could have bagged himself a hat-trick - nodded in from close range to complete the comeback, with Walcott drilling home an angled effort in stoppage time to give the bruised Gunners renewed confidence for more stern challenges over the next seven months.
Arsenal were looking to improve on their last Premier League game here, when surprise package Hull pulled off a shock, but deserved, win.
But after what was a low-key start, Everton took an early lead.
The ball was knocked up field and dropped back to Osman. The midfielder played a pass out wide to Steven Pienaar on the left, continued his run into the area to meet the return cross and stabbed the ball past Manuel Almunia.
Arsenal – who had only lost two games since arriving at their new home in 2006 - were stunned into action, and soon lifted the tempo.
Cesc Fabregas fired over from 20 yards as the Gunners pressed.
Arsenal should have been level when Van Persie beat the offside trap and collected a long pass from Fabregas into the area ahead of Joleon Lescott.
The Dutchman turned superbly, only for his shot to be blocked by a brilliant reaction save from American stopper Tim Howard.
In the 22nd minute, Arsenal defender Toure, captain in Gallas’ absence, needed treatment for a shoulder problem after falling awkwardly at a corner.
Gael Clichy picked out Emmanuel Adebayor with a deep cross from the left, but the big African could not keep his header down.
Emmanuel Eboue then presented Van Persie with another great chance after a clever angled pass, only for the Dutchman to blaze the ball over from 20 yards.
After 30 minutes, Lescott pulled back Van Persie just outside the area on the right, and was cautioned.
The Holland forward took the free-kick himself, which Howard had to punch away double-fisted as it was whipped towards the far post.
With seven minutes to half-time, Everton went close again when Lescott’s downward header from a Leighton Baines cross was cleared off the line by Clichy.
Fabregas flashed a 25-yard effort just wide of Howard’s right-hand post and then from close range dragged a shot across goal to sum up a frustrating opening 45 minutes by the off-key Gunners.
Toure had been struggling and was unable to continue for the second half, with Alex Song moving from the right into the middle and Eboue dropping back as Walcott came on.
It was Almunia though who was called into action right away, as Ayegbeni Yakubu got on the end of a knockdown by Marouane Fellaini.
Arsenal, though, were soon pressing down on the Everton goal and drew level through Nasri on 48 minutes.
A corner was only half-cleared, with Denilson playing the ball back to the edge of the area, where Mikael Silvestre – making a belated debut after signing from Manchester United – touched it back to Nasri, who drilled a low strike past the defenders and an unsighted Howard.
Suddenly the Emirates Stadium faithful had found their voice again and the team responded with a number of free-flowing moves.
Van Persie blazed the ball over when it fell to him 12 yards out and then looked to have a strong penalty claim when he went down under a challenge from Baines – but the referee was having none of it.
Peter Walton was then centre stage once more when Tony Hibbert went in late on Denilson and was involved in some unnecessary afters with Clichy which saw a brief melee. The Northamptonshire official, though, decided a yellow card was sufficient punishment for both men.
Arsenal continued to press, but were confronted by a wall of blue shirts around the penalty area.
However, they finally found a way through on 70 minutes. Adebayor went into the left side of the box, before setting up Fabregas.
His strike was parried by Howard – and Van Persie was on hand to nod the ball in, despite the best efforts of Baines on the line.
Abou Diaby came on for his first appearance of the season to replace Nasri - and promptly set up Walcott to make it 3-1 in stoppage time.