A 91st minute Thierry Henry goal broke Sunderland hearts as Arsenal came from behind to beat Martin O'Neill's side 2-1 at the Stadium of Light.
A 91th minute Thierry Henry goal broke Sunderland hearts as Arsenal came from behind to beat Martin O’Neill’s side 2-1 at the Stadium of Light.
James McClean had put the Black Cats ahead in the 70th minute, but five minutes later Arsene Wenger’s men equalised through substitute Aaron Ramsey.
And then, when it looked as though the game was heading for a draw, substitute Henry finished from close-range to inflict only Sunderland’s second defeat since O’Neill took over.
It was the visitors who enjoyed the first chance of the game after a mix up between Michael Turner and Kieran Richardson.
The pair failed to clear the ball just inside the area leaving Robin Van Persie to hit a low shot towards goal, but Simon Mignolet saved comfortably.
Sunderland were holding their own, though, and after a good passage of play, Seb Larsson’s corner was headed over by James McClean.
Fraizer Campbell was looking lively and the striker, who only recently returned to action after a serious knee injury, almost carved out a chance for Stephane Sessegnon, but the visitor’s defence stood firm.
Having put seven past Blackburn last week, Arsenal’s front three of Van Persie, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain were looking dangerous again.
After a failed Sunderland attack, Rosicky broke away feeding Van Persie, before the in-form Dutchman played a great through ball to Walcott, but the England international could only direct his low shot wide of the far post.
With seven minutes left of the first half, Sunderland should have had a penalty when Colback’s cross from the left was chested down by Per Mertesacker, but the defender lost control and handled the ball with his outstretched hand.
But despite strong appeals from the home side, referee Neil Swarbrick waved play on
The decision, or lack of it, had infuriated the home fans and as he walked off at half time, Swarbrick was met by a wave of boos.
The Gunners might have been dominating the game possession wise, but as they have done since O’Neill took over, the Black Cats defence dealt with anything that came their way.
Sessegnon and Campbell continued to keep Koscienly and Mertesacker busy, but Sunderland first chance of the second half fell to an unlikely source.
The hosts had been awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position after Gardner had been fouled, but the resulting set piece was deflected into the path of O’Shea, who blasted his effort high over the bar.
O’Neill’s men continued to put pressure on Arsenal and within a few minutes Craig Gardner saw two long-range strikes saved by Szczesny.
His first came when a Larsson corner was cleared into his path and from the edge of the area he drilled a low shot that was tipped round the post by the Gunners keeper.
Not long after that, another Larsson corner fell to him just outside the area, but again Szczesny was on hand to save from his fierce volley and Campbell couldn’t squeeze his follow-up inside the post.
The momentum was clearly with the Black Cats and after a pro-longed period of pressure and chances they took the lead through fortuitous circumstances.
A routine pass was played back to Mertesacker, but the defender went down clutching his ankle, which left McClean free to break into the Gunners’ box and finish low into the far corner.
The Black Cats had taken a deserved lead, but five minutes later their hard work was undone and out of nowhere Arsenal drew level.
Aaron Ramsey had replaced Mertesacker, who had to be stretchered off, and he made an impact immediately when Mikel Arteta’s shot was cleared into his path leaving the midfielder to finish with a sweeping first-time shot that had caught Mignolet off-guard.
Van Persie’s late header was saved by Mignolet, but as the game entered the 90th minute, Sunderland hearts were broken when Henry popped up to claim three points for Wenger’s men.
Andrey Arshavin was allowed to get a left-sided cross into the box and there waiting was Henry to prod home and win it for the north London side.