Match ends, Arsenal 3, Sunderland 1.
Olivier Giroud scored for both teams as below-par Arsenal battled past Sunderland to end a run of three Premier League games without a win.
Arsenal were poor for long periods, but led when Joel Campbell finished from a Mesut Ozil through ball.
Sunderland deservedly levelled through a free-kick that Giroud deflected into his own net.
But Giroud made amends with a header from virtually the same spot, before Aaron Ramsey scrambled a late third.
Sunderland, who have been dragged back into the relegation zone by Bournemouth's win at Chelsea, can rightly feel hard done by after a performance of both disciplined defence and incisive attacking play.
Arsenal were hampered by the absence of both Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez and looked ponderous going forward, while a shaky defence was indebted to the excellence of goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Still, they climb to second in the Premier League, two points behind leaders Leicester.
Giroud makes amends
Giroud's performance was almost Arsenal in microcosm - the own goal an error caused by Sunderland pressure, but ultimately enough quality to secure a victory that was barely deserved.
A lacklustre first-half display looked set to be behind the Gunners when Campbell finished a seven-pass move underneath the on-rushing Costel Pantilimon.
But they were ahead for only 12 minutes as the impressive Duncan Watmore won a free-kick on the left that was swung in by Yann M'Vila and accidentally steered home by the leg of Giroud.
Arsenal showed little sign of improving in the second half, but, as in the first, one flowing move was enough to cut through an otherwise organised Sunderland defence.
Nacho Monreal was heavily involved as Arsenal came down the left, with Giroud stooping to head Ramsey's cross into the same part of the net he erroneously found in the first half.
The third, in the dying moments, was harsh on a Sunderland team looking for an equaliser. With visiting defenders outnumbered, Ramsey pounced to leave a scoreline that did not reflect the contest.
Big Gunners stand up
With so many players out injured, Arsenal needed their most experienced men to perform and Ozil and Cech delivered.
Virtually all of Arsenal's attacking play went through Ozil, but it was the performance of Cech that was perhaps most telling.
He made saves from Fabio Borini and a Mathieu Flamini deflection in the first half and, most importantly, brilliantly denied Steven Fletcher in the second.
As Fletcher arrived at the back post from a corner, Cech moved across his goal to stop the ball virtually on the line. Moments later, Arsenal were ahead.
Sunderland arrived at the Emirates on the back of two wins and two clean sheets.
While they defended with nine behind the ball, they also carried an attacking threat, particularly through the industry of Watmore - indeed, Arsenal ended with six defenders on the pitch.
Making only his second Premier League start in place of the injured Jermain Defoe, the 21-year-old not only did his defensive duties but regularly had the legs to get up in support of Fletcher.
He won the free-kick that resulted in Sunderland's goal and also, with the score still at 2-1, got behind the Arsenal defence only to fire a tame shot straight at Cech.
And, while it was Watmore who impressed, the Black Cats demonstrated that Sam Allardyce has brought both enough solidity and potency to suggest that fight against relegation can be won.
Man of the match - Petr Cech
What they said
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "We started a bit nervous and edgy in the first half. We were unlucky to come in at 1-1, so I was positive. I told the players they still had 45 minutes to win the game, and play with more pace and different angles. You see this Premier League is a battle. Sunderland played a dangerous game on the break.
"It could have been one of those days, but we kept our determination and the mental aspect was good. We have lost players in the heart of our game, so we had to find a balance again. It took us time to get going.
"[Premier League leaders] Leicester have been very impressive. The best you can do is to win games, and hope that they drop points, but that is not happening. We go to Olympiakos in midweek, which Leicester don't do, so they have an advantage in that way too."
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce: "I couldn't ask for any more in terms of the way we played, I couldn't have asked for more in terms of the chances we created, but we failed to take the chances we had.
"It makes me wonder what would have happened if we'd had Jermain Defoe on the field. He could have had two or three goals. I'm really disappointed we haven't got anything out of the game, but I have to be satisfied with the performance.
"I think we've got goalscorers. We've got Steven Fletcher, we've got Duncan Watmore. We've got Jermain to come back. We just haven't taken the chances we've created."
- Mesut Ozil has had a hand in 14 goals in his last 13 Premier League appearances (two goals, 12 assists)
- Ozil has now recorded 12 Premier League assists this season, the most by an Arsenal player since Cesc Fabregas in 2009-10 (13)
- Arsenal have scored a league-high three own-goals in the Premier League this season
- The Gunners have now gone four top-flight games without keeping a clean sheet, their longest run since December 2014-January 2015 (six games in total).
- Since joining Arsenal in the summer of 2012, Giroud has netted 17 headed goals in the Premier League, more than any other player
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 12 top-flight clashes with Sunderland and have suffered defeat in just one of the last 24 against the Black Cats
- Sam Allardyce has now lost eight successive Premier League games against the Gunners and has not beaten Arsenal in the competition since May 2010 (Blackburn 2-1 Arsenal)
Arsenal go to Greece on Wednesday, needing to beat Olympiakos either 2-0, or by any margin if they score at least three goals, in order to progress in the Champions League. They travel to Aston Villa in the Premier League next Sunday, while Sunderland host Watford the previous day.
- 6KoscielnyBooked at 44mins
- 28CampbellSubstituted forGibbsat 76'minutes
- 15Oxlade-ChamberlainSubstituted forWalcottat 64'minutes
- 12GiroudSubstituted forChambersat 80'minutes
- 24YedlinBooked at 80mins
- 20ToivonenSubstituted forRodwellat 62'minutes
- 3van Aanholt
- 9BoriniSubstituted forJohnsonat 67'minutes
- 26FletcherSubstituted forLensat 73'minutes
- 14Gomez Garcia-Penche
- Robert Madley
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Arsenal 3, Sunderland 1.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Jack Rodwell.
Goal! Arsenal 3, Sunderland 1. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal.
Attempt blocked. Calum Chambers (Arsenal) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Theo Walcott.
Attempt saved. Calum Chambers (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Kieran Gibbs.
Theo Walcott (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Younes Kaboul (Sunderland).
Attempt saved. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Mesut Özil.
Attempt missed. Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland) right footed shot from the centre of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Jack Rodwell with a through ball.
Foul by Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal).
Duncan Watmore (Sunderland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Nacho Monreal (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Adam Johnson (Sunderland).
Substitution, Arsenal. Calum Chambers replaces Olivier Giroud.
DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Mesut Özil (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland).
Mesut Özil (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by John O'Shea (Sunderland).