Thomas Vermaelen rescued a point for Arsenal after his own goal threatened to earn Fulham a surprise win.
Vermaelen looked on in horror as his attempted 65th-minute clearance after Danny Murphy's sublime pass to John Arne Riise ended up in the net.
But the Belgian levelled eight minutes from time following Theo Walcott's cross.
Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer produced fine saves to deny Aaron Ramsey and Johan Djourou to earn his side a point.
Chris Baird also denied Robin van Persie with a terrific clearance off the line in the second half.
But Fulham, disciplined and composed throughout, thoroughly deserved a rare away point in a London derby which started slowly but improved as it went on.
Not even the presence of injured tennis star Andy Murray could spark Arsenal into life during a sluggish start.
Murray, forced to withdraw from the ATP World Tour Finals in London earlier in the week with a groin problem, was present at Emirates Stadium.
But the Scot did well to stay awake as the hosts appeared to be suffering from a Champions League hangover following victory over Borussia Dortmund three days earlier .
Andrey Arshavin marked his return to the side by finding the net in the fourth minute but the Russian's effort, after Van Persie's pass, was ruled out by an offside flag.
DID YOU KNOW?
This was the first time in six years Arsene Wenger picked an Arsenal team without a Frenchman in it
Van Persie went into the game looking to add to his stunning return of 12 goals in eight league and cup matches, yet it was Ramsey who was presented with Arsenal's best two chance of the first half.
The Wales international cut a frustrated figure when Schwarzer, who almost joined Arsenal last year, produced an excellent save to keep out his powerful eighth-minute effort following a sweeping three-man move involving Alex Song and Van Persie.
Then Ramsey spurned a glorious chance when he fired high and wide in the 24th minute after good work by Walcott.
England international Walcott struggled to stamp his authority on proceedings but he did manage to test Schwarzer in the 26th minute - one of the few saves the Fulham keeper had to make before the interval.
Fulham have established a reputation as notoriously poor travellers in recent seasons yet Martin Jol's side had their moments, with Moussa Dembele proving a real menace to the Gunners defence.
The former AZ Alkmaar player saw his 20-yard attempt in the 33rd minute deflected behind for a corner, from which Brede Hangeland headed narrowly wide.
And Dembele took advantage of some sloppy defending to force Wojciech Szczesny into his only serious save of the first half.
Arsenal needed to improve in the second half but they endured more frustration.
After Van Persie cleverly created room for himself inside the Fulham area on the hour mark, the striker let fly with a shot which was heading for the net before Baird did well to clear off the line.
Five minutes later Fulham were ahead.
A sublime ball by Murphy bounced off Riise's chest inside the Arsenal area and Vermaelen could only watch as his attempted clearance somehow ended up in the back of his own net.
Suddenly the Cottagers were within sight of their first ever win at Arsenal.
And when Schwarzer, who had an outstanding game, produced another excellent save to deny Djourou following a corner, it looked like Arsenal's luck had run out.
But with eight minutes remaining Vermaelen headed home Walcott's right-wing cross to lift Arsenal above Liverpool into sixth spot.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: "Our pace was not right, but we've given a lot in recent weeks and went into this on the back of an intense Champions League match.
"It feels a little bit like a defeat because we've dropped two points and conceded a stupid goal. But I can't be too demanding on the team because the players are exceptional.
"I said before the game that Fulham are a good side and I haven't changed my opinion after this."
Fulham's Moussa Dembele said: "If you watch us play every game then you will see we play well, but it's just the points that are missing.
"So I'm not worried about our position in the table, particularly after this performance and result.
"We knew it was going to be a difficult game coming to the Emirates but we're happy with the outcome, although we would have been happier with all three points."
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Live Text Commentary
Full Time The final whistle is blown by the referee.90:00 +1:42
Inswinging corner taken by Mikel Arteta from the left by-line played to the near post, Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save made by Mark Schwarzer.90:00 +0:36
Pajtim Kasami takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line played to the near post, Robin van Persie makes a clearance.89:55
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Andrew Johnson by Clarindo Andre Santos. Danny Murphy crosses the ball from the free kick right-footed from left channel, clearance made by Johan Djourou.89:17
Corner taken by Mikel Arteta from the left by-line, Mark Schwarzer makes a save.86:00
Clarindo Andre Santos takes a shot. Brede Hangeland gets a block in.85:14
Pajtim Kasami concedes a free kick for a foul on Yao Gervinho. Clarindo Andre Santos takes the direct free kick.84:32
Shot from inside the six-yard box by Robin van Persie goes wide right of the goal.83:42
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.83:02
Yao Gervinho takes a shot. Save made by Mark Schwarzer.81:11
Assist by Theo Walcott.81:11 Goal scored
Goal! - Thomas Vermaelen - Arsenal 1 - 1 Fulham Thomas Vermaelen finds the back of the net with a headed goal from close range. Arsenal 1-1 Fulham.80:29
Shot on goal by Robin van Persie from inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.77:27
Danny Murphy restarts play with the free kick.77:27 Substitution
Substitution Andrew Johnson on for Bobby Zamora.77:27
Thomas Vermaelen gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Pajtim Kasami.76:02
Direct effort from the free kick comes in from Robin van Persie.76:02 Booking
Booking Philippe Senderos shown a yellow card.75:56
Philippe Senderos challenges Robin van Persie unfairly and gives away a free kick.74:34 Substitution
Substitution Andrey Arshavin leaves the field to be replaced by Marouane Chamakh.
Substitution Pajtim Kasami on for Bryan Ruiz.73:01
Corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line, Johan Djourou takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.71:37
The assistant referee signals for offside against Philippe Senderos. Free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.70:09
Robin van Persie takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line to the near post, Clint Dempsey makes a clearance.69:56
Vassiriki Diaby takes a shot. Brede Hangeland gets a block in.67:33
Free kick taken by Per Mertesacker.67:33 Substitution
Substitution Per Mertesacker leaves the field to be replaced by Vassiriki Diaby.67:33 Substitution
Substitution Aaron Ramsey goes off and Yao Gervinho comes on.67:33
Bobby Zamora is caught offside.66:36
Free kick awarded for a foul by Alex Song on Brede Hangeland. Danny Murphy takes the free kick.64:27 Goal scored
Goal! - Thomas Vermaelen - Arsenal 0 - 1 Fulham Thomas Vermaelen scores an own goal from 35+ yards. Arsenal 0-1 Fulham.64:29
John Arne Riise provided the assist for the goal.62:16
Moussa Dembele takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.61:29
Clint Dempsey takes a shot. Blocked by Per Mertesacker.59:07
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Mikel Arteta from the left by-line, clearance by Clint Dempsey.58:57
Robin van Persie takes a shot. Blocked by Chris Baird.58:03
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Moussa Dembele by Aaron Ramsey. Direct free kick taken by Danny Murphy.53:58
Corner taken by Danny Murphy from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by Johan Djourou.52:22
Corner taken by Mikel Arteta from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance by Chris Baird.52:13
Clarindo Andre Santos takes a shot. Blocked by Chris Baird.48:14
Mikel Arteta concedes a free kick for a foul on Moussa Dembele. Moussa Dembele restarts play with the free kick.45:01
The second half has started.45:00 +1:53 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to end the first period.45:00 +0:42
The ball is swung over by Mikel Arteta, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Per Mertesacker misses to the right of the target.45:00 +0:42 Booking
Booking Booking for Dickson Etuhu.45:00 +0:34
Foul by Dickson Etuhu on Mikel Arteta, free kick awarded.44:12
The referee gives a free kick against Moussa Dembele for handball. Free kick taken by Clarindo Andre Santos.42:19
Bryan Ruiz fouled by Mikel Arteta, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Chris Baird.41:45
Brede Hangeland has a header from deep inside the six-yard box and clears the crossbar.41:22
Corner taken by Danny Murphy from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance by Robin van Persie.41:01
Moussa Dembele takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.39:25
Moussa Dembele takes a shot. Blocked by Mikel Arteta.38:03
Foul by Alex Song on Moussa Dembele, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by John Arne Riise.36:52
The assistant referee signals for offside against Bobby Zamora. Wojciech Szczesny restarts play with the free kick.33:53
Effort on goal by Andrey Arshavin from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the goal.32:41
Corner from the right by-line taken by Danny Murphy, Headed effort from inside the area by Brede Hangeland misses to the left of the target.32:29
Moussa Dembele takes a shot. Blocked by Thomas Vermaelen.30:57
Corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line, clearance made by Bobby Zamora.30:19
Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.28:35
Bryan Ruiz fouled by Alex Song, the ref awards a free kick. John Arne Riise restarts play with the free kick.28:01
John Arne Riise takes a shot. Blocked by Thomas Vermaelen.27:26
Free kick taken by Chris Baird.27:26 Booking
Booking Bobby Zamora is shown a yellow card for dissent.27:08 Booking
Booking Clarindo Andre Santos is shown a yellow card.26:54
Handball decision goes against Clarindo Andre Santos.26:22
Mikel Arteta takes a short corner.25:56
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line, clearance by Chris Baird.25:23
Inswinging corner taken by Robin van Persie, clearance by Philippe Senderos.25:12
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.23:36
Effort on goal by Aaron Ramsey from deep inside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.21:44
Robin van Persie fouled by Danny Murphy, the ref awards a free kick. Mikel Arteta restarts play with the free kick.20:12
Bobby Zamora produces a right-footed shot from inside the area that clears the bar.19:44
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Brede Hangeland gets a block in.16:26
Foul by Philippe Senderos on Robin van Persie, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Clarindo Andre Santos.14:23
Long range effort by Aaron Ramsey goes wide right of the net.13:35
Outswinging corner taken by Mikel Arteta from the left by-line, save by Mark Schwarzer.12:22
Unfair challenge on Mikel Arteta by Danny Murphy results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Per Mertesacker.9:12
Andrey Arshavin gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Dickson Etuhu. John Arne Riise takes the direct free kick.7:01
Corner taken by Robin van Persie from the right by-line, Mark Schwarzer makes a save.6:39
Aaron Ramsey takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.5:30
Free kick awarded for a foul by John Arne Riise on Theo Walcott. Direct free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.5:12
Clint Dempsey takes a shot. Blocked by Johan Djourou.3:33
The assistant referee flags for offside against Andrey Arshavin. Indirect free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.1:22
Andrey Arshavin is caught offside. Mark Schwarzer takes the indirect free kick.0:53
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie played to the near post, clearance made by Bobby Zamora.0:00
The ref blows the whistle to start the match.
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