In the cold light of day it is a better result for Chelsea, as Arsenal went from almost snatching defeat from the jaws of victory to saving themselves with an injury-time equaliser. Even then, in keeping with what had gone on for the previous 92 minutes, they were close to losing it as Chelsea struck the goal-frame. It would have been typical Arsenal.
It means they remain in sixth and still face a fight to finish in the top four but, had they lost, the recriminations, the angst, the anger would have swirled around the Emirates.
It was full-throttle, relentless and open, and exploded into life with an Arsenal error. Victor Moses launched a hopeful long ball forward, and Shkodran Mustafi completely misjudged it, as did Calum Chambers, who failed to react, believing it would easily run through to goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Instead, it simply allowed Alvaro Morata to sprint clear. But the striker got his angles horribly wrong as he opened up his body and side-footed the ball woefully wide. He surely had to score. Soon after, Morata narrowly failed to connect with a cross, inside the six-yard area, with Cech collecting the ball. Again, he should have done better.
It stung Arsenal. Attack, for them, depleted with a raft of injuries and a callow back-line which saw Rob Holding coming into the team, had to be the best form of defence and so they charged forward, claiming a penalty as Ainsley Maitland-Niles went over in the area, arguing that his heels were clipped as he cut across Moses.
Amid the confusion, the ball broke to Alexis Sanchez, whose poked shot was superbly pushed onto his right-hand post by Thibaut Courtois, only for it to bounce along the goal-line, hitting the other post before being gathered by the grateful goalkeeper. Arsenal went again. Mesut Ozil, a surprise inclusion having not trained prior to the game, fed the ball into Alexandre Lacazette, who turned sharply before forcing another fine save from Courtois, low to his left, conceding a corner.
Not to be outdone, Chelsea hit back as Cesc Fabregas slipped a pass through to Tiemoue Bakayoko, whose rising shot was pushed over the bar by Cech. Soon after, the Chelsea midfielders combined again, with Bakayoko narrowly failing to control Fabregas’s flighted cross-field pass that would have set him free.
And so it continued. Marcos Alonso sent a free-kick dipping over the bar and then Arsenal broke and Ozil went even closer as his bouncing shot had Courtois scrambling as it drifted past the far post.
Right on half-time, it was Fabregas holding his face as N’Golo Kante stole the ball away from Ozil and Eden Hazard dribbled across the face of the area before smartly back-heeling into his team-mate’s path. The goal beckoned but Fabregas side-footed over. The half-time whistle came … and breathe. Somehow neither team, despite all those clear chances, had scored.
Early into the second half and Chelsea carved out two more chances, with Hazard denied by Cech, with his outstretched right leg, after another astute pass by Fabregas and then the rebound falling to Bakayoko, whose first-time cross was met by Alonso.
He guided a header skimming goalwards and Cech reacted quickly to get down low and concede a corner.
Courtois soon intervened to once more deny Lacazette, after his take from Sanchez’s pass, before turning Gary Cahill close to the six-yard box. The striker’s low shot was blocked, though, when – again – it seemed a goal would come. Finally it did.
Arsenal’s pressure told, with Holding’s first-time pass rebounding off Morata to Jack Wilshere, who had instigated the move, with the midfielder’s powerful, rising first-time effort cannoning off Courtois’s near post and into the net. They pressed on and only another save from Courtois denied Lacazette.
Just as it seemed Chelsea would be overwhelmed, Hazard won a penalty. It came after he twisted his way into the area, with his cross rebounding off Hector Bellerin. As Hazard tried to control the ball his foot was kicked by Bellerin and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot. Hazard calmly stroked the ball home, as Cech dived to his left.
The momentum swung. Wilshere had scored his first Premier League goal since May 2015 and it had appeared set to be the story, but Chelsea had struck back – with Arsenal claiming Hazard had dived, had exaggerated his fall – and should have gone ahead when Morata was again sent clear, delaying his shot only to lift the ball over the bar.
Head coach Antonio Conte beat the ground in frustration. That turned to celebration when substitute Davide Zappacosta easily turned Maitland-Niles and drilled in a low cross, with Alonso running in front of Mustafi – that was really poor by the defender – and slamming his shot beyond Cech. Arsenal were reeling. The euphoria of Wilshere’s goal was gone.
But, deep into injury-time, it returned. Just as it seemed the contest was up, Arsenal pressed one last time and the ball dropped to Bellerin, who steered a fierce half-volley beyond Courtois and into the net. Remarkably, Chelsea immediately broke and Morata was denied by Cech, only for the rebound to fall to Zappacosta, whose shot cannoned back off the crossbar.