Robin van Persie's double secured a vital Arsenal win against a Sunderland side who were unlucky to leave the Emirates with nothing.
It looked ominous for the visitors when the Gunners opened the scoring within the first minute of the game. Gervinho squared the ball to van Persie, who shot low into the bottom corner and Arsenal had the dream start they'd hoped for.
It was all Arsenal for much of the first half hour, van Persie the best player on the pitch by some way.
The Dutchman turned Kieran Richardson on the edge of the area and chipped the ball over Simon Mignolet but it bounced off the post and away.
A left-foot effort from the captain went just wide a couple of minutes later while Gervinho should have done better after breaking into the box but he blazed over.
Sunderland were hanging on but were back in the game just after the half-hour mark. Mikel Arteta's needless handball resulted in a free-kick which Seb Larsson stepped up to take and the former Arsenal player curled an unstoppable effort into the top right corner.
Lee Cattermole should have put the Black Cats ahead a few minutes later but his header from point-blank range produced a wonderful save from Wojciech Szczesny, and Jack Colback had a great opportunity just before the break but volleyed just over the bar from 12 yards out.
The second half saw six bookings, three for each side, as both teams battled for a vital win. Arsenal wasted numerous free-kicks as the game became scrappy but substitute Andrey Arshavin provided one moment of brilliance, toe poking the ball wide after leaving the Sunderland defence standing.
The breakthrough came with eight minutes to go as Wes Brown felled van Persie on the edge of the box. The Dutchman stepped up to take the free-kick and curled a fabulous strike into the top corner.
Sunderland did not lie down and thought they'd levelled straight away but substitute Ji Dong-Won was denied by the offside flag.
Arsenal held on through a nervy five minutes of injury time to claim a precious win that takes them up to 10th in the table while Sunderland are just one place off the bottom three.