While they have still only suffered one home defeat by Spurs in 19 years, this was not as convincing a victory as the scoreline suggests.
Spurs looked in control before Adebayor's red card, a moment of madness that may have contributed to a third straight league defeat.
Wenger praises 'exceptional' Walcott
Boss Andre Villas-Boas said Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy spent all week telling him how vital it was to win at Emirates Stadium.
That message was heeded by his players early on, the decision to start two strikers in a 4-4-2 formation paying off.
Adebayor and Jermain Defoe were causing Arsenal's defence all sorts of problems and moments after William Gallas had seen a strike ruled out for offside, Spurs were ahead.
Mertesacker and Sagna both inexplicably stepped up to let Vertonghen's long ball send Defoe clean through.
His low drive from the left was repelled by Wojciech Szczesny - starting his first match in two months following an ankle injury - but Adebayor was on hand to tap home the rebound.
Arsenal were struggling for any sort of rhythm and Aaron Lennon dragged an effort inches wide as Tottenham pressed for a second.
Villas-Boas upbeat despite defeat
However, the momentum shifted when Adebayor caught Cazorla with a lunging raised foot, leaving referee Howard Webb little option.
The dismissal of a player who left Arsenal for Manchester City before joining Tottenham gave the home players and fans a noticeable lift.
Six minutes later, Mertesacker peeled away from Gallas to meet Walcott's right-wing cross with a superb header.
Hugo Lloris, making only his second league start in goal in place of Brad Friedel, could do nothing to stop the equaliser and prevented a second when Giroud glanced Wilshere's free-kick towards the top corner.
The pressure began to mount, though, and after Cazorla swerved a drive just over and Lloris again denied Giroud, Arsenal went ahead.
A neat interchange between Mikel Arteta and Wilshere set up Podolski and his finish bobbled into the net via Gallas.
It was now a case of damage limitation until the break for Tottenham, but they were breached once more in stoppage time.
Arsenal were ruthless - Walcott
Webb played an advantage that enabled Cazorla to supply a low cross from the left for Giroud to sweep home first time, despite Gallas and Vertonghen being in close attendance.
Villas-Boas replaced full-backs Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton with centre-back Michael Dawson and forward Clint Dempsey - switching to 3-5-1 - and his team started the second half with tempo.
But Arsenal used their numerical advantage to avert the danger before targeting their opponents on the counter-attack.
The tactic was rewarded when Walcott fed Podolski on the left and his perfectly-weighted centre was easily converted by Cazorla.
Bale showed there was still life in Tottenham, exploiting lax defending to find the bottom corner before going just wide three minutes later.
Arsenal had a two-goal cushion but looked nervous, and Defoe somehow failed to connect with a Bale corner from close range.
But as Spurs began to tire, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger introduced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and he set up Walcott to complete the win.
Full Time The final whistle goes and the game is over.
Theo Walcott decides to take a short corner.
Short corner taken by Theo Walcott from the right by-line.
Assist by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
90:00 +0:40 Goal scored
Goal - Theo Walcott - Arsenal 5 - 2 Tottenham Theo Walcott grabs a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham.
Jan Vertonghen concedes a free kick for a foul on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Free kick taken by Santi Cazorla.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain takes a shot. Gareth Bale gets a block in.
Free kick taken by Hugo Lloris.
Substitution Olivier Giroud leaves the field to be replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Unfair challenge on Raniere Sandro by Clarindo Andre Santos results in a free kick.
Thomas Vermaelen produces a left-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand post.
Direct free kick taken by Michael Dawson.
Substitution Clarindo Andre Santos replaces Lukas Podolski.
Booking Lukas Podolski goes into the referee's book.
Lukas Podolski challenges Jan Vertonghen unfairly and gives away a free kick.
Outswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Tom Carroll, Olivier Giroud makes a clearance.
Inswinging corner taken by Gareth Bale from the right by-line.
Olivier Giroud is ruled offside. Michael Dawson takes the free kick.
Gareth Bale has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the goal.
Substitution Tom Carroll comes on in place of Tom Huddlestone.
Substitution Jack Wilshere goes off and Aaron Ramsey comes on.
Assist on the goal came from Raniere Sandro.
70:04 Goal scored
Goal - Gareth Bale - Arsenal 4 - 2 Tottenham Gareth Bale finds the back of the net with a goal from outside the area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Arsenal 4-2 Tottenham.
Foul by Laurent Koscielny on Clint Dempsey, free kick awarded. Michael Dawson takes the direct free kick.
Outswinging corner taken by Theo Walcott from the right by-line, Jan Vertonghen makes a clearance.
Free kick taken by Mikel Arteta.
Booking Raniere Sandro receives a yellow card.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Olivier Giroud by Raniere Sandro.
Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Gareth Bale.
Jermain Defoe handles the ball and concedes a free kick. Free kick taken by Laurent Koscielny.
Jack Wilshere challenges Tom Huddlestone unfairly and gives away a free kick. Jan Vertonghen takes the free kick.
Shot from just outside the area by Olivier Giroud goes over the bar.
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Blocked by Michael Dawson.
The assist for the goal came from Lukas Podolski.
59:21 Goal scored
Goal - Santi Cazorla - Arsenal 4 - 1 Tottenham Santi Cazorla scores a goal from deep inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Arsenal 4-1 Tottenham.
Olivier Giroud gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Clint Dempsey. Michael Dawson takes the free kick.
Corner taken right-footed by Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale manages to make a clearance.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Aaron Lennon by Thomas Vermaelen. Tom Huddlestone delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from right wing.
Inswinging corner taken by Tom Huddlestone from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance made by Lukas Podolski.
Jack Wilshere is ruled offside. Hugo Lloris takes the free kick.
Foul by Clint Dempsey on Olivier Giroud, free kick awarded. Mikel Arteta takes the direct free kick.
Tom Huddlestone takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance made by Lukas Podolski.
The game restarts for the second half.
Substitution Michael Dawson is brought on as a substitute for Kyle Walker.
Substitution Clint Dempsey on for Kyle Naughton.
45:00 +2:21 Half time
Half Time The referee blows for half time.
The assist for the goal came from Santi Cazorla.
45:00 +0:17 Goal scored
Goal - Olivier Giroud - Arsenal 3 - 1 Tottenham Olivier Giroud fires in a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham.
Free kick taken by Theo Walcott.
Booking Caution for Aaron Lennon.
Aaron Lennon concedes a free kick for a foul on Thomas Vermaelen.
The assist for the goal came from Jack Wilshere.
41:02 Goal scored
Goal - Lukas Podolski - Arsenal 2 - 1 Tottenham Lukas Podolski finds the net with a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham.
Olivier Giroud takes a shot. Hugo Lloris makes a comfortable save.
Raniere Sandro gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jack Wilshere. Direct free kick taken by Mikel Arteta.
Unfair challenge on Bacary Sagna by Aaron Lennon results in a free kick. Jack Wilshere crosses the ball in from the free kick, clearance made by Jan Vertonghen. Lukas Podolski gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Gareth Bale. Jan Vertonghen restarts play with the free kick.
Corner taken by Gareth Bale from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Olivier Giroud.
Raniere Sandro fouled by Bacary Sagna, the ref awards a free kick. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Tom Huddlestone.
Shot by Santi Cazorla from outside the area goes high over the crossbar.
Theo Walcott fouled by Kyle Naughton, the ref awards a free kick. The ball is delivered by Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud takes a shot. Hugo Lloris makes a fantastic save. Corner taken right-footed by Theo Walcott from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Gareth Bale.
Jermain Defoe is caught offside. Free kick taken by Laurent Koscielny.
Jack Wilshere challenges Jan Vertonghen unfairly and gives away a free kick. Jan Vertonghen takes the free kick.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Mikel Arteta on Gareth Bale. Jan Vertonghen takes the free kick.
Theo Walcott provided the assist for the goal.
23:06 Goal scored
Goal - Per Mertesacker - Arsenal 1 - 1 Tottenham Per Mertesacker finds the net with a headed goal from deep inside the penalty area. Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham.
Thomas Vermaelen takes a shot. Blocked by William Gallas.
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Theo Walcott, clearance by Tom Huddlestone.
Thomas Vermaelen challenges Aaron Lennon unfairly and gives away a free kick. Hugo Lloris takes the free kick.
Jermain Defoe concedes a free kick for a foul on Laurent Koscielny. Mikel Arteta takes the direct free kick.
Mikel Arteta restarts play with the free kick.
Dismissal The referee red cards Emmanuel Adebayor for serious foul play.
Emmanuel Adebayor challenges Santi Cazorla unfairly and gives away a free kick.
Thomas Vermaelen fouled by Emmanuel Adebayor, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Laurent Koscielny.
Shot by Aaron Lennon from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.
Jack Wilshere challenges Emmanuel Adebayor unfairly and gives away a free kick. Kyle Walker takes the free kick.
Assist on the goal came from Jermain Defoe.
9:49 Goal scored
Goal - Emmanuel Adebayor - Arsenal 0 - 1 Tottenham Emmanuel Adebayor finds the back of the net with a goal from inside the six-yard box low into the middle of the goal. Arsenal 0-1 Tottenham.
Jermain Defoe takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.
Thomas Vermaelen gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Aaron Lennon. Free kick crossed left-footed by Gareth Bale from right wing, clearance by Laurent Koscielny. Tom Huddlestone takes a shot. Blocked by Laurent Koscielny. William Gallas is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.
The referee blows for offside against Theo Walcott. Free kick taken by Jan Vertonghen.
Unfair challenge on Olivier Giroud by Raniere Sandro results in a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Mikel Arteta from left channel, clearance by William Gallas.
Raniere Sandro challenges Jack Wilshere unfairly and gives away a free kick. Mikel Arteta takes the direct free kick.
The game begins.
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