Match ends, Arsenal 2, Sunderland 0.
Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland
Arsenal ensured the race to finish in the Premier League's top four will go down to the final day of the season with a laboured win against relegated Sunderland.
Alexis Sanchez tapped in Mesut Ozil's square pass to the relief of those inside a sparsely populated Emirates Stadium.
As Arsenal increased in urgency, Sanchez bundled in Olivier Giroud's cut-back to renew their hopes of a top-four finish for a 21st successive season.
Despite having 36 attempts at goal - the most in a Premier League game since 2003 - the Gunners could not wipe out fourth-placed Liverpool's superior goal difference.
Arsenal are a point behind the Reds - who are two goals better off - before Sunday's final matches.
Realistically, Arsene Wenger's men must beat seventh-placed Everton and hope the Reds slip up against relegated Middlesbrough at Anfield.
|Arsenal finish in the top four if:|
|They win and Liverpool fail to beat Middlesbrough|
|They draw 0-0 or 1-1 and Liverpool lose by three goals or more|
|They earn a score draw of 2-2 and Liverpool lose 2-0 (or they draw 3-3 and Liverpool lose 3-1, and so on)|
|They win, and Manchester City lose - with a minimum five-goal swing in goal difference|
|Liverpool finish in the top four if:|
|They win, or they match or better Arsenal's result|
|But... both sides could also finish level on points, goal difference and goals scored - resulting in a fourth-placed play-off|
Patience pays off for Arsenal
Arsenal started the evening needing to win - preferably by a big margin - if they were to have any realistic hope of sneaking into the top four.
They knew defeat against rock-bottom Sunderland, who had managed just three away victories all season, would end their hopes if Manchester City beat West Brom.
And with City cruising to a 3-1 win in their game, even a draw would have left Arsenal struggling.
Until Sanchez's late intervention, it looked as though Wenger's side would be left frustrated by a lack of conviction in front of goal and some stubborn Sunderland defending.
The Gunners found the breakthrough with 20 minutes left, Granit Xhaka picking out Ozil with a clever chip over the defence that was put back across goal by the German for Sanchez to tap in.
Arsenal knew just a draw against Everton on the final day might be enough to catch Liverpool if they wiped out the Reds' superior goal difference, and Wenger urged his side to push for more goals from the touchline.
Sanchez was lurking in the six-yard box at the right time to convert Giroud's volleyed pass to double the lead, but despite a late flurry that saw Shkodran Mustafi hit the woodwork the hosts were unable to add to their tally.
"Sunderland did fight and that's what you want from every team," Wenger said.
Empty Emirates illustrates Arsenal apathy
Arsenal have endured a turbulent season blighted by confusion over Wenger's future, protests from supporters demanding change and concerns that Sanchez and Ozil may be sold this summer.
Swathes of empty red seats at a hushed Emirates Stadium illustrated the apathy of some Gunners fans, the subdued atmosphere compounded by Arsenal failing to make their early dominance count.
The Gunners created 18 efforts in a frustrating first half, only to be let down by wayward finishing and another impressive display by Black Cats goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The 23-year-old boosted his burgeoning reputation with several instinctive saves after the break as Arsenal continued to pile on the pressure before Sanchez's late double.
However, creeping past an already-relegated side is unlikely to appease the unhappy Arsenal fans who believe Wenger is not the man to take them forward.
Wenger's contract expires at the end of the season and, although the club has offered him a two-year deal, he again refused to answer questions about his future after the match.
Some hope for Sunderland?
Sunderland manager David Moyes has endured a miserable debut season with the Black Cats, even agreeing with former England captain Alan Shearer's scathing assessment that the performance of his players in Saturday's defeat against Swansea was "disgraceful".
The Black Cats, who were relegated with four games to go, are likely to undergo major surgery in the summer with many players out of contract and some - notably Pickford and striker Jermain Defoe - likely to be targeted by Premier League clubs.
But those players who have been heavily criticised did manage to salvage a modicum of pride at Arsenal.
Sunderland defended doggedly and even threatened to cause the Gunners some defensive problems, most notably when Didier Ndong and Defoe drew saves from Petr Cech before the break.
And the Black Cats were almost gifted the lead at the start of the second half when Nacho Monreal's howler of backpass had to be scooped wide by Cech.
They could not capitalise on an indirect free-kick inside the Gunners six-yard box as their winless Premier League run at the Emirates extended to a 17th game.
Man of the match - Jordan Pickford (Sunderland)
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
"We had plenty of shots on goal but we needed to be patient. We were frustrated at half-time not to be leading.
"We made 71 points and were second. We now have 72 and want to go to 75. After that you deal with what happens.
"We've got in on the final day many times. Sunderland fought and you want that in the Premier League - that's what you want from every team.
"We had a difficult patch after the Bayern game because it was difficult to recover. On the other hand it was a good mental test and we responded in a strong way."
Sunderland manager David Moyes:
"We were full of character and commitment. We made it difficult for Arsenal for long periods and had good chances. We played well but Arsenal had the class to make the difference.
"Saturday's game against Sunderland was not like I'd seen in the last month or so. Against Arsenal we got a good performance and if we got the first goal it could have been completely different.
"After I got in in August I didn't think we had a squad capable. But it was what we've got, you have to try and ultimately we were just short.
"I'll speak with chairman Ellis Short over the next few days. I've given him an indication of what we need to do and we'll look to see if that's possible."
Former England captain Trevor Brooking on BBC Radio 5 live:
"Alexis Sanchez is priceless, they must not let him go.
"But it took a long time for Arsenal to get that first goal. If they got that after half an hour then we would have probably had four or five."
Ex-Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson on BBC Radio 5 live:
"I think Arsene Wenger has been great for them but it's just time to say goodbye.
"But I think he will sign for another two years."
The final games of the season all kick off on Sunday at 15:00 BST. Arsenal host seventh-placed Everton at Emirates Stadium, while Sunderland wave farewell to the Premier League - for one season at the very least - with a trip to champions Chelsea.
Wenger gets the better of Moyes... again
- David Moyes has lost 16 times to Arsene Wenger in the Premier League, his most defeats against another manager in the competition
- Wenger secured his 20th victory in all competitions against Moyes, more than any other manager he has faced with Arsenal
- No side has finished bottom of the Premier League on more occasions than Sunderland (three, level with Nottingham Forest)
- Alexis Sanchez has scored six goals in five Premier League games versus Sunderland
- Sanchez has been directly involved in 33 Premier League goals this season (23 goals, 10 assists), more than any other player
- Since his Premier League debut in September 2013, Mesut Ozil has provided more assists than any other player (41)
- Arsenal have never lost a home Premier League match against Sunderland, winning 11 and drawing five
- 20MustafiBooked at 90mins
- 18MonrealBooked at 54mins
- 24BellerínBooked at 22mins
- 8RamseySubstituted forWelbeckat 69'minutes
- 3GibbsSubstituted forIwobiat 69'minutes
- 11ÖzilBooked at 55mins
- 12GiroudSubstituted forWalcottat 85'minutes
- 35El Neny
- 16O'SheaBooked at 56mins
- 21ManquilloSubstituted forJanuzajat 82'minutes
- 17NdongSubstituted forGibsonat 88'minutes
- 6CattermoleBooked at 74minsSubstituted forGoochat 77'minutes
- Roger East
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Arsenal 2, Sunderland 0.
Attempt missed. Fabio Borini (Sunderland) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right.
Attempt blocked. Adnan Januzaj (Sunderland) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Billy Jones.
Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal).
Lynden Gooch (Sunderland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Alex Iwobi (Arsenal).
Adnan Januzaj (Sunderland) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt blocked. Theo Walcott (Arsenal) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Granit Xhaka with a through ball.
Attempt missed. Nacho Monreal (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Alex Iwobi following a corner.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Lamine Koné.
Substitution, Sunderland. Darron Gibson replaces Didier Ndong.
Corner, Sunderland. Conceded by Héctor Bellerín.
Attempt blocked. Adnan Januzaj (Sunderland) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Didier Ndong.
Foul by Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal).
Lynden Gooch (Sunderland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Mesut Özil with a cross.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Lamine Koné.
Attempt blocked. Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) header from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Mesut Özil.
Substitution, Arsenal. Theo Walcott replaces Olivier Giroud.
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Didier Ndong (Sunderland).
Attempt missed. Danny Welbeck (Arsenal) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Mesut Özil.
Substitution, Sunderland. Adnan Januzaj replaces Javier Manquillo.
Goal! Arsenal 2, Sunderland 0. Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) header from very close range to the centre of the goal following a corner.
Attempt saved. Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Shkodran Mustafi with a cross.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Billy Jones.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Javier Manquillo.
Attempt saved. Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Héctor Bellerín.
Attempt saved. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Mesut Özil.
Substitution, Sunderland. Lynden Gooch replaces Lee Cattermole.
Offside, Sunderland. Lee Cattermole tries a through ball, but Jermain Defoe is caught offside.
Offside, Arsenal. Nacho Monreal tries a through ball, but Alexis Sánchez is caught offside.
Hand ball by Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal).
Attempt blocked. Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Granit Xhaka.
Lee Cattermole (Sunderland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Lee Cattermole (Sunderland).
Goal! Arsenal 1, Sunderland 0. Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Mesut Özil following a corner.