Two classy finishes from Robin van Persie earned Arsenal victory over Sunderland at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners' captain opened the scoring after just 29 seconds - the fastest goal of the Premier League season.
Sunderland drew level on the half-hour thanks to a stunning free-kick from former Gunner Sebastian Larsson.
But Van Persie had the final say when he fired in a free-kick of his own eight minutes from time to give Arsene Wenger's men victory.
Arsene Wenger praises 'special' Robin van Persie
Van Persie declared his commitment to the club in the matchday programme following reports he was planning to join Manchester City - and then backed that up with his match-winning display on the pitch.
Sunderland kicked the game off, and were stunned to find themselves behind within 30 seconds as the Gunners worked the ball down the left flank and Gervinho picked out Van Persie - who was given far too much space by Wes Brown - and he fired the ball low past Simon Mignolet.
The Dutchman almost doubled the lead after 12 minutes with a sublime piece of skill, turning effortlessly on the edge of the box before spotting Mignolet off his line but his chipped effort hit the post.
The visitors were finding it impossible to shackle Van Persie and he caused more alarm with a left-footed effort which went wide of the target.
Sunderland began to settle down and created an opportunity in the 27th minute.
DID YOU KNOW?
Robin van Persie has been involved in 29 Premier League goals (23 goals, six assists) for Arsenal since 16 October of last year, equal most in the league by Manchester United's Wayne Rooney.
Wojciech Szczesny raced wide out of his penalty area to collect the ball and was beaten to it by Kieran Richardson but no-one could get on the end of his cross.
But it was still against the run of play when the Black Cats levelled through Larsson's third goal of the season.
Mikel Arteta was penalised for handball and Larsson curled in the resulting free-kick from 25 yards into the top corner.
And it was Sunderland who could have led at the break but for a brilliant save from Szczesny as he kept out Lee Cattermole's close-range header.
The visitors set their stall out to defend after the interval, and four quick-fire yellow cards were the stand-out moments, although the Gunners were frustrated with Alex Song's attempt to find Theo Walcott as one of several attacks broke down.
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Andrey Arshavin wriggled free to create a chance but his weak shot was off target.
Just as it was looking like being another frustrating afternoon for Wenger's side, Van Persie intervened in style, curling in a fine free-kick from 25 yards.
The Gunners did have a late scare when Sunderland subsitute Ji Dong-won had the ball in the back of the net but it was rightly ruled offside as the Gunners held on for a win which takes them into the top half of the Premier League.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
"The spirit in the team is exceptional and in the second half we just came out and played in their half. We are growing as a team and getting stronger and stronger.
"Robin van Persie is a special player and he's shown that again today. He's blessed at the moment and let's touch wood with his injuries. He's shown what a great player he is when he can be consistently playing.
"We have answered a few critics but not enough and there is a lot more for us to show."
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce:
"We keep getting beaten by the odd goal. We had an awful start and we had an awful start last week but we showed a little bit of resilience and a little bit of character to get back into it.
"When you have the big chances like we had just before half time, if you are going to win here at the Emirates, you need to take them.
"That's been the story so far. It's not been quite happening for us but we'll keep sticking at it and working hard then I'm sure we'll turn it round."
Full Time The final whistle is blown by the referee.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Alex Song on Craig Gardner. Simon Mignolet takes the free kick.
Connor Wickham takes a shot. Blocked by Laurent Koscielny.
Ahmed Elmohamady is ruled offside. Clarindo Andre Santos takes the indirect free kick.
Handball by Alex Song. Direct free kick taken by David Vaughan.
Yossi Benayoun fouled by Kieran Richardson, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Robin van Persie.
Yossi Benayoun takes a shot. Wes Brown gets a block in.
Corner taken short by Robin van Persie.
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Kieran Richardson gets a block in.
Substitution Craig Gardner replaces Lee Cattermole.
Andrey Arshavin takes a shot. Save by Simon Mignolet.
Connor Wickham takes a shot. Blocked by Laurent Koscielny. Dong-Won Ji is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Wojciech Szczesny takes the indirect free kick.
Booking Booking for Robin van Persie.
82:00 Goal scored
Goal! - Robin van Persie - Arsenal 2 - 1 Sunderland Robin van Persie scores a goal direct from the free kick from just outside the area to the top right corner of the goal. Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland.
Wes Brown gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Robin van Persie.
Effort from 18 yards by Mikel Arteta. Lee Cattermole gets a block in.
Corner taken by Robin van Persie played to the near post, Connor Wickham manages to make a clearance.
Substitution (Sunderland) makes a substitution, with Connor Wickham coming on for Stephane Sessegnon.
Mikel Arteta takes a short corner.
Andrey Arshavin has an effort at goal. Blocked by Michael Turner.
Foul by Yossi Benayoun on Lee Cattermole, free kick awarded. Lee Cattermole restarts play with the free kick.
Substitution Yossi Benayoun on for Tomas Rosicky.
Tomas Rosicky takes a shot. Blocked by Lee Cattermole.
Effort on goal by Andrey Arshavin from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the goal.
Stephane Sessegnon challenges Alex Song unfairly and gives away a free kick. Wojciech Szczesny takes the direct free kick.
The referee blows for offside against Michael Turner. Indirect free kick taken by Carl Jenkinson.
Corner taken left-footed by David Vaughan from the right by-line, save made by Wojciech Szczesny.
Substitution Andrey Arshavin joins the action as a substitute, replacing Yao Gervinho.
Substitution Dong-Won Ji on for Sebastian Larsson.
Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save made by Simon Mignolet.
Sebastian Larsson restarts play with the free kick.
Booking Laurent Koscielny booked.
Stephane Sessegnon fouled by Laurent Koscielny, the ref awards a free kick.
Strike comes in from Theo Walcott from the free kick.
Booking Booking for Wes Brown for unsporting behaviour.
Wes Brown challenges Theo Walcott unfairly and gives away a free kick.
Outswinging corner taken by Mikel Arteta from the right by-line played to the near post, Lee Cattermole makes a clearance.
Lee Cattermole gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Alex Song. Alex Song takes the free kick.
Unfair challenge on Tomas Rosicky by John O'Shea results in a free kick. Direct effort from the free kick comes in from Mikel Arteta.
The ball is swung over by Sebastian Larsson, Headed effort from deep inside the area by John O'Shea misses to the left of the goal.
Booking Alex Song goes into the book.
Alex Song gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon.
Foul by Ahmed Elmohamady on Alex Song, free kick awarded. Alex Song takes the direct free kick.
Mikel Arteta takes the free kick.
Booking Sebastian Larsson is booked.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Sebastian Larsson on Robin van Persie.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon by Per Mertesacker. Kieran Richardson takes the free kick.
Shot by Clarindo Andre Santos from a long way out goes over the crossbar.
Clarindo Andre Santos restarts play with the free kick.
Booking The referee shows David Vaughan a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
David Vaughan concedes a free kick for a foul on Tomas Rosicky.
Inswinging corner taken by Robin van Persie, clearance by John O'Shea.
Substitution Clarindo Andre Santos is brought on as a substitute for Kieran Gibbs.
Kieran Richardson concedes a free kick for a foul on Robin van Persie. Mikel Arteta takes the direct free kick. Alex Song takes a shot. Michael Turner gets a block in.
The game restarts for the second half.
45:00 +2:05 Half time
Half Time The half-time whistle blows.
Shot from inside the area by Jack Colback clears the bar.
Jack Colback fouled by Per Mertesacker, the ref awards a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Sebastian Larsson from right channel, clearance by Robin van Persie.
Alex Song takes a shot. Save made by Simon Mignolet.
Corner taken by Robin van Persie played to the near post, clearance made by John O'Shea.
The ball is delivered by Carl Jenkinson, David Vaughan manages to make a clearance.
Jack Colback gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Laurent Koscielny. Direct free kick taken by Kieran Gibbs.
Alex Song challenges Stephane Sessegnon unfairly and gives away a free kick. Simon Mignolet restarts play with the free kick.
Tomas Rosicky fouled by Lee Cattermole, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Mikel Arteta.
Lee Cattermole challenges Alex Song unfairly and gives away a free kick. Alex Song takes the direct free kick.
Wes Brown challenges Robin van Persie unfairly and gives away a free kick. Mikel Arteta restarts play with the free kick.
Lee Cattermole takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line to the near post, Sebastian Larsson makes a clearance.
30:03 Goal scored
Goal! - Sebastian Larsson - Arsenal 1 - 1 Sunderland Sebastian Larsson finds the net with a goal direct from the free kick from outside the box to the top left corner of the goal. Arsenal 1-1 Sunderland.
Handball decision goes against Mikel Arteta.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Lee Cattermole by Robin van Persie. Free kick crossed right-footed by Sebastian Larsson from right channel.
The offside flag is raised against Kieran Gibbs. Simon Mignolet takes the free kick.
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Mikel Arteta, Yao Gervinho takes a shot. Kieran Richardson gets a block in.
Effort on goal by Yao Gervinho from just inside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.
Sebastian Larsson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Mikel Arteta. Direct free kick taken by Carl Jenkinson.
Yao Gervinho fouled by Michael Turner, the ref awards a free kick. Robin van Persie takes the direct free kick.
Left-footed shot by Kieran Richardson went wide of the right-hand post.
Stephane Sessegnon is ruled offside. Kieran Gibbs takes the indirect free kick.
Ahmed Elmohamady concedes a free kick for a foul on Alex Song. Alex Song takes the free kick.
Robin van Persie has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box which goes wide left of the goal.
Yao Gervinho is ruled offside. Indirect free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
Jack Colback concedes a free kick for a foul on Laurent Koscielny. Tomas Rosicky takes the direct free kick.
Robin van Persie produces a lobbed right-footed shot from just inside the area and strikes the post.
Sebastian Larsson takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line to the near post, Ahmed Elmohamady has a headed effort at goal from close in which goes wide left of the goal.
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Save made by Simon Mignolet.
Mikel Arteta takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line played to the near post, Lee Cattermole makes a clearance.
Centre by Robin van Persie, clearance by John O'Shea.
Kieran Richardson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Theo Walcott. Free kick crossed right-footed by Mikel Arteta, Wes Brown makes a clearance.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon by Laurent Koscielny. Free kick crossed right-footed by Sebastian Larsson, clearance made by Laurent Koscielny.
Assist by Yao Gervinho.
0:26 Goal scored
Goal! - Robin van Persie - Arsenal 1 - 0 Sunderland A goal is scored by Robin van Persie from just inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Arsenal 1-0 Sunderland.
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