Olivier Giroud scored at both ends while Aaron Ramsey was also on target as Arsenal picked up a 3-1 win over Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger saw his side labour at times en route to a first win in four Premier League matches – the Arsenal boss having faced difficult questions this week after Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla joined a lengthy injury list in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Norwich City.
Joel Campbell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were therefore handed starting spots and it was the former who opened the scoring 33 minutes in when he converted Mesut Ozil’s delightful pass from inside the area only for Giroud to score at the wrong end before half-time.
Wenger’s men were given a stern test by a Sunderland side now resolute and organised under Sam Allardyce but the visitors were denied a point as Giroud atoned for his earlier error.
Giroud glanced Ramsey’s delivery past Costel Pantilimon before the Welshman made sure of maximum points late on for Arsenal who move second in the table after Manchester City and Manchester United failed to win on Saturday.
Allardyce remains winless against Arsenal since May 2010 but saw Sunderland turn in another display that suggests they stand every chance of retaining their Premier League status.
While Wenger was forced into two changes, Allardyce introduced Fabio Borini, Ola Toivonen and Duncan Watmore into his starting XI for the injured trio of Jermain Defoe, Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole.
Borini spurned a golden opportunity four minutes in when he shot straight at Petr Cech when clean through before Ramsey fired wide, having been handed a start in his favoured central position in Cazorla’s absence.
Midfield partner Mathieu Flamini almost diverted an attempted clearance past Cech as Sunderland sought to press home their early superiority.
However, Ozil – who boasted 11 assists in his 12 previous league games prior to Saturday – cut the Sunderland defence open with his side’s first moment of real quality.
The German produced a beautifully-weighted pass for Campbell to slot under Pantilimon, although Sunderland deservedly drew level before half-time.
Shortly after Giroud saw a penalty appeal waved away after he tangled with Younes Kaboul, the France striker diverted Yann M’Vila’s inswinging free-kick past Cech, following a Laurent Koscielny foul on Watmore.
Arsenal almost hit back before the break when Ramsey’s shot found the side-netting, with the Welshman having a sight on goal ruled out early in the second half due to the offside flag.
Sunderland saw Steven Fletcher’s close-range effort kept out on the line by Cech following a flick-on from Toivonen as both sides pressed forward in an absorbing spell prior to the hour.
Ozil dragged an effort wide before Giroud found the target at the right end with a well-taken header from inside the box 27 minutes from time.
Theo Walcott made his return from injury off the bench after over five weeks out although Arsenal were given two let-offs with Watmore and Patrick van Aanholt failing to finish when in on Cech.
After Ramsey shot straight at Pantilimon, the Wales international made no mistake when prodding home from inside the six-yard box soon after as Wenger’s men picked up an important win ahead of Wednesday’s crucial Champions League trip to Olympiacos.