Martin Odegaard helped keep Arsenal alive within striking distance of leaders Manchester City, winning a tough game against third-placed Newcastle United.
The Norwegian international’s 14th-minute strike, his fifth goal in as many games, coupled with an unfortunate own goal from Fabian Schar, secured a 2-0 victory and extended the gap between them and the third to 16 points, closing in his turn the gap with City – who have a game in hand – to just one.
The fact that a Thoroughbred match yielded just two goals was testament to the excellence of England goalkeepers Nick Pope and Aaron Ramsdale, each making a string of fine saves, even though both needed help from the wood, in the case of the latter on two occasions.
For the Magpies, who had an early penalty decision overturned in their favour, a fifth defeat of the season has left them looking over their shoulder with Liverpool and Brighton pushing hard in the race for a top four finish.
Having struggled out of the blocks against Southampton seven days earlier, they knew they couldn’t afford a replay and with forwards Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak starting together for the first time, they banked on the Gunners from the start.
Jacob Murphy was unfortunate to see a second-minute shot bounce off the feet of a post after he cut inside from Joe Willock’s cross with Ramsdale batted in, and it took a solid block from Ben White to ward off Isak’s attempt seconds later .
Arsenal were swinging and appeared to be in trouble when referee Chris Kavanagh pointed at the spot after defender Jakub Kiwior appeared to block Bruno Guimaraes’ shot with his hand, only for the referee to change his mind after being advised to review the incident.
Locals from a crowd of 52,267 were still voicing their displeasure when Odegaard was afforded time and space on the edge of the box to fire a left-footed shot past the helpless Pope to put the visitors ahead against the game sequence.
However, the Gunners ramped into the game and Pope had to save from Gabriel Martinelli and Odegaard in quick succession and then denied Bukayo Saka one-on-one after it was played by Granit Xhaka.
Ramsdale had to save from Willock after he ran onto Wilson’s smart ball around the corner as the game continued at a frantic pace with the Magpies doubling their efforts.
Martinelli fired in front of goal and Pope denied Odegaard with his feet deep in stoppage time at the end of an increasingly fractious start to the 45th minute.
Ramsdale had to come to the visitors’ rescue again four minutes into the restart when, after Isak’s header had hit the post, he fended off Schar’s attempt, but it was Pope who thanked for the woodwork when Martinelli saw his 51st minute shot splash against the bar.
There was no let up in the breathless pace of the game as the game moved rapidly from end to end, although Guimaraes failed to extend Ramsdale after being set up by Joelinton with 27 minutes to go.
The Gunners went even further with 19 minutes remaining when Martinelli’s cross bounced past Pope into Schar and into the net.
A deflated Newcastle fought until the whistle to get back into the match with Ramsdale tipping substitute Allan Saint-Maximin’s stoppage time goal, but Arsenal held impressive steadiness to see through the clock.
READ MORE: Xhaka reflects on ‘painful day’ for Arsenal as Arteta’s men chase Newcastle revenge