The match began at a typically frantic pace for the fixture, and the first chance of the game fell to the visitors. Olivier Giroud was released with an excellent pass from Santi Cazorla, but the Frenchman left it too long to pull the trigger, allowing Jan Vertonghen to recover.
Although Spurs were getting forward without trouble, they were lucky to see Emmanuel Adebayor stay on the pitch after he first saw a yellow for a crunching challenge that could have easily been a sending off, before appearing to go over very easily in the area in an attempt to win a penalty.
The first half was largely dominated by exploiting high defensive lines with raw pace, but it was Spurs who managed to find the space to create the better chances. An early warning came when Gylfi Sigurdsson got into the hole and a lack of pressure allowed him to pick a pass for Gareth Bale, but the in-form winger couldn't quite control the ball. Yet it was not long before an almost identical move occurred - Bale made no mistake the second time, clearing the Arsenal backline with remarkable ease to get on the end of Sigurdsson's pass and finish smartly past Wojciech Szczesny.
Just two minutes later, Spurs repeated the trick, this time through the unlikely figure of Scott Parker providing the killer ball for Aaron Lennon to dart past a static backline and round Szczesny before slotting home. The double whammy left Arsenal reeling as the sides went into half-time, with the Gunners now looking in real trouble at the break.
Yet despite enjoying a comfortable lead, Tottenham continued to be Tottenham, and it was the visitors who got the next goal to put themselves back in with a shout. Santi Cazorla's free-kick was met by an excellent header from Mertesacker, which nestled into the net just beyond Hugo Lloris' reach thanks to a slight deflection from the head of Bale.
After a scrappy period of play, Tottenham briefly created a flurry of chances, with the introduction of Jermain Defoe giving a boost up front. First the striker went on a fine run through the middle before finding Gylfi Sigurdsson in the left-hand channel in acres of space, but the midfielder overran the pass and attempted to square the ball, finding only an Arsenal defender when he was better placed to finish himself.
Immediately afterwards, Defoe picked his way through the Arsenal backline again, only for Defoe's attempted finish to drift wide, before a mazy run from Lennon left the Arsenal defence with twisted blood, but his left-footed effort was only deflected out for a corner, which came to nothing. Although Spurs had the upper hand, every miss seemed to point grimly towards the prospect of an Arsenal equaliser as the visitors continued to look dangerous when they did get forward.
Arsenal then looked to find an equaliser, and came close with ten minutes to play when Aaron Ramsey, bizarrely moved out to the wing, got into space to fire in an effort on goal, but a narrow deflection took his shot just wide of the post with Lloris beaten. A late free-kick threatened to break Tottenham's hearts, but Theo Walcott attempted a direct strike on goal and saw his shot drift wide. Arsenal's Champions League hopes may soon be going the same way.