Arsenal rediscovered their attacking flair with a 5-2 victory over 10-man Tottenham in a captivating north London derby.
But Saturday’s seven-goal thriller hinged on a first-half red card shown to Emmanuel Adebayor, who had put Tottenham in front in the 10th minute .
However, the former Arsenal turned from hero to zero eight minutes later as he was sent off for a dangerous studs-up challenge on Santi Cazorla.
From that point on, Arsenal took complete control and were 3-1 up by half-time thanks to goals from Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.
Santi Cazorla scored the fourth on the hour mark and Theo Walcott added the fifth in the closing stages either side of a Gareth Bale strike that will offer little consolation to Tottenham supporters.
The final score mirrors the same fixture last season, the turning point in Arsenal’s campaign, and takes the Gunners to sixth in the Premier League, two points ahead of Spurs.
It all started so well for Tottenham as they controlled the early exchanges and took the lead in the 10th minute. Jermain Defoe raced on to a long ball as the Arsenal defence stood statuesque and after his shot was saved by Wojciech Szczesny, Adebayor scrambled in the rebound.
But Spurs’ afternoon fell apart eight minutes later. Adebayor, clearly pumped up for the occasion as he was taunted by the home fans, could have no complaints after being sent off by referee Howard Webb for his challenge on Cazorla.
From then on, Arsenal were dominant, teasing their neighbours and creating chances at will with their use of the ball in midfield.
In the 24th minute, Mertesacker levelled with a towering free header from 12 yards after good work down the right from Walcott.
The Gunners eventually took the lead they deserved in the 42nd minute.
Podolski tricked his way into the the penalty area and his shot flicked off the foot of William Gallas and spun fortuitously into the far corner.
On the stroke of half-time, Giroud made sure there was no way back for Spurs. The French striker, a constant menace throughout the game, was simply too sharp as he fired home Cazorla’s cross at the near post.
Villas-Boas responded by switching to three at the back during the break but his players were unable to stem the tide.
On the hour mark, Arsenal worked the ball to Podolski on the left and the German produced a perfect low cross from the left for Cazorla to score from eight yards. 4-1.
Bale fired in Spurs’ second after a fine run but by that stage Arsenal were going through the motions, conserving their energy ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Montpellier.
There was still time for Walcott to add a fifth with his right foot following a scorching run by substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.