Late goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott spared Arsenal’s blushes and kept them top of the Premier League in a 2-0 victory over Cardiff City as title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea also won on Wednesday.
The conclusion of the congested festive schedule saw a tired display by the Londoners who looked set to draw a blank for the second straight home game before Bendtner bundled home in the 88th minute and Walcott wrapped up the points in stoppage time.
Manchester United’s difficulties returned as the champions were beaten 2-1 by Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, their sixth league defeat and fourth at home in a stuttering season.
Their rivals Manchester City briefly went top after subduing a battling Swansea City 3-2 away while Chelsea beat Southampton 3-0 on the road and Liverpool won 2-0 at home to Hull City.
Arsenal, with 45 points from 20 games, stayed one point clear of Manchester City and two ahead of Chelsea in third with Liverpool a further four points off the pace.
Everton’s Leighton Baines converted an added time penalty to rescue a 1-1 draw at Stoke City as the Merseysiders dropped to fifth, while 10-man Newcastle United stumbled to a 1-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion.
Spurs, who took a 2-0 lead with goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Christian Eriksen before Danny Welbeck pulled one back for United, moved above their opponents into sixth. David Moyes’s United team are now 11 points adrift of the leaders.
After Arsenal’s last home game ended in a goalless draw against Chelsea, the fans were fearing another shutout at The Emirates that would have shunted them off top spot.
Cardiff City, playing in front of former Manchester United forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who sat alongside owner Vincent Tan and is expected to become their new manager, defended stoutly before the home side’s pressure told late on.