Arsenal earned some respite after a turbulent week as two Santi Cazorla goals helped them beat relegation-threatened Aston Villa.
Cazorla powered in a low shot to give the hosts a sixth-minute lead.
Arsenal could not make the most of their possession and were punished when poor defending let Andreas Weimann drive in a 22-yard equaliser.
Arsenal win deserved after 'rocky' week
But Nacho Monreal cut the ball across for Cazorla to sidefoot in a winner from 12 yards after 85 minutes.
The victory moved Arsenal to within a point of fourth-placed rivals Tottenham and, even though it was not a convincing win, it will come as a huge relief after home defeats by Blackburn and Bayern Munich in the past seven days.
Villa will be heartbroken after a game in which they defended so resolutely after letting in the opener and were rewarded for their counter-attacking efforts when Weimann scored.
However, they could not hang on for a point as Arsenal applied some late pressure and the West Midlands side dropped into the bottom three on goal difference.
Villa next play champions Manchester City before relegation rivals Reading and QPR, while the Gunners, who will hope to improve on a laboured performance, are scheduled to play fellow top-four contenders Spurs and Everton.
Gunners midfielder Jack Wilshere had highlighted that his side have a tendency to be slow starters in matches and he made sure that was not the case this time around.
John MotsonBBC Match of the Day commentator
"Goodness me this was not a convincing performance from Arsenal and it nearly wasn't a victory. Arsenal had so much of the play but Aston Villa, who were so bright on the counter-attack, will consider themselves unfortunate to lose. The end of an extraordinary week at the Emirates."
The England international was central to his side's play, surging clear from the left side in the opening minutes and having a driven shot fended away by keeper Brad Guzan.
Arsenal, though, did not have to wait long for the breakthrough as they took advantage of some hesitant and uncertain defending from a Villa side without injured centre-back Ron Vlaar.
Wilshere slipped the ball to Cazorla and, after his first shot was blocked by Nathan Baker, the Spaniard was quickest to latch on to the rebound before firing past Guzan.
The visitors responded with a tenacity to test the home side's resolve and give their hosts plenty of anxious moments.
Gabriel Agbonlahor had a shot parried away by keeper Wojciech Szczesny before the Villa forward narrowly failed to get on the end of a low Charles N'Zogbia cross across the Gunners goal.
A mistake from Monreal let the lively Weimann surge clear and the Austrian cut the ball back for N'Zogbia, whose first-time shot was well saved.
Arsenal briefly quelled Villa's threat and went close to a second when some neat passing ended with Olivier Giroud's low angled left-foot shot being saved by Guzan just before half-time.
Villa centre-back Ciaran Clark gave the home side a scare when he met an Ashley Westwood corner just after the break only to put his effort disappointingly over.
Santi Cazorla is the first Arsenal player to net 10 league goals in his debut season since Thierry Henry in 1999-2000.
Giroud horribly sliced a shot wide at the other end and Arsenal's failure to add to their lead kept the visitors in with a shout of stealing an equaliser, which Villa duly did.
A Villa clearance was poorly headed by Gunners defender Carl Jenkinson on the halfway line and N'Zogbia nodded the ball to Weimann, who raced unchallenged at the home goal before scoring with a low strike.
Wenger's frustrations on the touchline were all too clear but his mood improved when a forward foray from Monreal let Cazorla tuck in his 11th goal of the season and help Arsenal avoid three successive home defeats for the first time since 2002.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
"What is most difficult is not the critics, it is that we lost the last two games. I am not here to lose games, I want win. What hurts me the most is that we lost to Blackburn at home and Bayern at home.
"When people come to the Emirates Stadium, they are not to go away with wins. All the rest concerns me less. Of course [it has been difficult], but you do your job and focus on the next game and try to win it.
"That is what we did. I am not 30 years in this job at the top level and going to be destroyed by people saying I don't know what I'm doing. I have been in this job a long time and what is important is that we have responsibilities and we have to stand up for them and get the team ready to go into the next game ready to fight."
Villa will avoid relegation - Lambert
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert:
"I don't need to rebuild the confidence after that. But I haven't for a number of weeks now. The confidence is there.
"The team were excellent against Arsenal. I don't think we deserved to get beat. We looked a threat throughout the whole game. In the first half we should have scored. But the way the lads played, I couldn't fault them.
"I thought they were excellent throughout. I felt we should have scored more than one goal. And I thought we should have been in front at half-time. I thought we were unlucky to be down.
"But we came out in the second half and went again - and got the equaliser. The equaliser was a brilliant finish, from a fantastic counter-attack.
Full Time The final whistle is blown by the referee.
The ball is swung over by Jack Wilshere.
Free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.
90:00 +0:27 Substitution
Substitution Laurent Koscielny replaces Theo Walcott.
The assistant referee flags for offside against Andreas Weimann.
The ball is crossed by Simon Dawkins, clearance by Per Mertesacker.
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.
Matthew Lowton delivers the ball, Wojciech Szczesny makes a save.
Shot from deep inside the area by Theo Walcott clears the bar.
Assist on the goal came from Nacho Monreal.
84:26 Goal scored
Goal! - Santi Cazorla - Arsenal 2 - 1 A Villa Santi Cazorla finds the net with a goal from inside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa.
Theo Walcott takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line to the near post, Joe Bennett manages to make a clearance.
The ball is sent over by Santi Cazorla, Matthew Lowton manages to make a clearance.
Substitution Simon Dawkins on for Charles N'Zogbia.
Corner taken right-footed by Theo Walcott from the left by-line, Olivier Giroud takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan. Theo Walcott takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line played to the near post, Per Mertesacker produces a header from close range which goes wide of the left-hand upright.
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Aaron Ramsey played to the near post, Christian Benteke manages to make a clearance.
The ball is crossed by Jack Wilshere, clearance by Joe Bennett.
Theo Walcott takes the inswinging corner, save by Bradley Guzan.
Unfair challenge on Per Mertesacker by Christian Benteke results in a free kick. Aaron Ramsey takes the direct free kick.
Olivier Giroud takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.
Santi Cazorla takes a shot. Blocked by Karim El Ahmadi.
Corner taken right-footed by Santi Cazorla from the left by-line to the near post, Christian Benteke makes a clearance.
Substitution Lukas Podolski joins the action as a substitute, replacing Carl Jenkinson.
The ball is crossed by Aaron Ramsey.
Jack Wilshere fouled by Karim El Ahmadi, the ref awards a free kick. Jack Wilshere takes the direct free kick.
Corner taken by Charles N'Zogbia played to the near post, clearance made by Olivier Giroud.
Andreas Weimann sends in a cross, Per Mertesacker manages to make a clearance.
Substitution Ashley Westwood leaves the field to be replaced by Karim El Ahmadi.
Jack Wilshere produces a cross.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Ciaran Clark on Mikel Arteta. Mikel Arteta takes the free kick.
Assist on the goal came from Charles N'Zogbia.
67:28 Goal scored
Goal! - Andreas Weimann - Arsenal 1 - 1 A Villa Goal scored by Andreas Weimann from just outside the area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Arsenal 1-1 Aston Villa.
Corner taken right-footed by Santi Cazorla from the left by-line to the near post, clearance made by Ashley Westwood.
Santi Cazorla takes a shot. Matthew Lowton gets a block in.
Free kick crossed right-footed by Mikel Arteta from left channel, Christian Benteke makes a clearance.
Booking Fabian Delph is booked.
Unfair challenge on Jack Wilshere by Fabian Delph results in a free kick.
Shot from just outside the box by Aaron Ramsey goes over the bar.
The ball is swung over by Carl Jenkinson.
Charles N'Zogbia challenges Olivier Giroud unfairly and gives away a free kick. Strike on goal comes in from Santi Cazorla from the free kick, blocked by Gabriel Agbonlahor.
The ball is delivered by Carl Jenkinson, Ciaran Clark makes a clearance.
Theo Walcott delivers the ball, Joe Bennett manages to make a clearance.
Direct free kick taken by Mikel Arteta.
Substitution Vassiriki Diaby goes off and Aaron Ramsey comes on.
Christian Benteke challenges Thomas Vermaelen unfairly and gives away a free kick.
Close range headed effort by Gabriel Agbonlahor goes wide of the left-hand post.
Jack Wilshere takes a shot. Nathan Baker gets a block in. Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Jack Wilshere played to the near post, Per Mertesacker takes a shot.
Santi Cazorla takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.
Corner taken left-footed by Jack Wilshere to the near post, clearance made by Joe Bennett.
The ball is delivered by Carl Jenkinson, Nathan Baker gets a block in.
Theo Walcott takes a inswinging corner.
Centre by Santi Cazorla, clearance by Joe Bennett.
Corner taken by Santi Cazorla played to the near post, Christian Benteke makes a clearance.
The ball is sent over by Jack Wilshere, save by Bradley Guzan.
Shot from close range by Olivier Giroud misses to the left of the target.
Nacho Monreal sends in a cross.
Ashley Westwood takes the outswinging corner, Header from close range by Ciaran Clark clears the bar.
Corner taken by Charles N'Zogbia from the left by-line to the near post.
Gabriel Agbonlahor fouled by Mikel Arteta, the ref awards a free kick. Nathan Baker restarts play with the free kick.
The referee gets the second half started.
45:00 +2:06 Half time
Half Time The referee calls an end to the first half.
The ball is swung over by Nathan Baker, Per Mertesacker makes a clearance.
Jack Wilshere challenges Joe Bennett unfairly and gives away a free kick. Ashley Westwood restarts play with the free kick.
The offside flag is raised against Olivier Giroud. Bradley Guzan restarts play with the free kick.
Mikel Arteta takes a shot. Ciaran Clark gets a block in. Olivier Giroud takes a shot. Blocked by Ciaran Clark.
Foul by Joe Bennett on Jack Wilshere, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Jack Wilshere.
Foul by Christian Benteke on Per Mertesacker, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Mikel Arteta.
Shot from close range by Olivier Giroud misses to the right of the target.
Olivier Giroud takes a shot. Save made by Bradley Guzan.
Carl Jenkinson crosses the ball, Ciaran Clark manages to make a clearance.
The ball is crossed by Nacho Monreal, clearance made by Nathan Baker.
Direct free kick taken by Nathan Baker.
Booking Vassiriki Diaby is given a yellow card.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Charles N'Zogbia by Vassiriki Diaby.
Wojciech Szczesny takes the direct free kick.
Booking Matthew Lowton receives a yellow card.
Matthew Lowton challenges Thomas Vermaelen unfairly and gives away a free kick.
Carl Jenkinson concedes a free kick for a foul on Gabriel Agbonlahor. Nathan Baker takes the free kick.
Nacho Monreal takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.
The referee blows for offside. Bradley Guzan restarts play with the free kick.
The referee blows for offside. Mikel Arteta takes the free kick.
Theo Walcott has an effort from just inside the box that misses to the left of the target.
Unfair challenge on Nacho Monreal by Charles N'Zogbia results in a free kick. Nacho Monreal takes the direct free kick.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor by Olivier Giroud. Ashley Westwood takes the free kick.
Fabian Delph fouled by Vassiriki Diaby, the ref awards a free kick. Ciaran Clark restarts play with the free kick.
Shot from just outside the box by Jack Wilshere goes over the crossbar.
Olivier Giroud fouled by Ciaran Clark, the ref awards a free kick. Mikel Arteta restarts play with the free kick.
The ball is swung over by Andreas Weimann, Charles N'Zogbia takes a shot. Wojciech Szczesny makes a save.
The ball is swung over by Theo Walcott, clearance by Ciaran Clark.
Olivier Giroud is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Ciaran Clark.
Matthew Lowton produces a cross. The referee blows for offside against Christian Benteke. Wojciech Szczesny restarts play with the free kick.
Inswinging corner taken by Theo Walcott from the right by-line.
The ball is crossed by Santi Cazorla, save made by Bradley Guzan.
A cross is delivered by Matthew Lowton.
The ball is crossed by Theo Walcott, clearance by Nathan Baker.
Per Mertesacker concedes a free kick for a foul on Christian Benteke. Fabian Delph takes the direct free kick.
The ball is crossed by Ciaran Clark, Thomas Vermaelen gets a block in.
Matthew Lowton sends in a cross.
Gabriel Agbonlahor takes a shot. Save made by Wojciech Szczesny.
Joe Bennett gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Theo Walcott. Mikel Arteta takes the direct free kick.
Assist by Jack Wilshere.
5:14 Goal scored
Goal! - Santi Cazorla - Arsenal 1 - 0 A Villa Goal scored by Santi Cazorla from just inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Arsenal 1-0 Aston Villa.
Centre by Jack Wilshere,
Jack Wilshere takes a shot. Save made by Bradley Guzan.
Santi Cazorla takes a shot. Blocked by Ciaran Clark.
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