Arsenal looked as though they were going to scuffle their way to yet another disappointing result with a mediocre display against Sunderland (who were also fairly mediocre, which is less disappointing on account of their being Sunderland), but one of the few stars left on the team saved their collective bacon. It was the Robin van Persie show at the Emirates, with the Dutch striker opening the scoring after 26 seconds, hitting the post, and then scoring an 82nd winner to secure three points.
It all started so promisingly, with Arsenal keeping the ball from kickoff to the opening goal, a neat little stutter by van Persie forcing Simon Mignolet to commit before the captain slotted home. The hosts continued to press home the attack, very nearly grabbing a second when van Persie hit the inside the post with an absolutely sublime chip that left Sunderland's goalkeeper stranded.
And then it went quite horribly wrong. Sebastian Larsson curled home a gorgeous free kick to make it 1-1. Wojciech Szczesny had to bail out a leaky defence to stop Sunderland from going ahead, saving brilliantly from a Lee Cattermole header. Arsenal were, once again, looking like they were about to subject their fans to abject failure. Although van Persie would get the winner, it was actually the introduction of Andrei Arshavin that started to turn things around, the Russian winger adding a touch of flair to the left side when he replaced the disappointing Gervinho.
Van Persie, of course, gave Arsenal their second lead eight minutes from time with a free kick (after Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta had gotten some silly misses out of everyone's system first). There was still time for Arsenal panic, with Sunderland seeing a Ji Dong-won goal ruled out - correctly - for offside immediately thereafter, and the five minutes of stoppage time Howard Webb called for didn't exactly ease the tension. But Arsene Wenger's men survived the danger, and earned a big three points to take them into the top half of the table.