Theo Walcott scored the second fastest goal of the season in the Premier League but it was Everton forward Marouane Fellaini who put the brakes on Arsenal in a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.
Everton manager David Moyes was left to ponder what might have been with his side denied a penalty of their own on 64 minutes when Mikel Arteta clearly pulled back Steven Pienaar as he meandered towards goal only for referee Michael Oliver to somehow point for a corner-kick.
Arsene Wenger's side moved ahead with their first real attack of the evening as England forward Walcott bounded onto Aaron Ramsey's pass before seeing his shot deflect off Tony Hibbert to nestle in the corner of the home net on 52 seconds.
It was the fastest Premier League goal of the season until Manchester United forward Robin van Persie found one to beat it on 33 seconds against West Ham United at Old Trafford in the 8pm kick-off.
The visiting side were still celebrating their opening goal when central defender Laurent Koscielny was forced to depart the action with a suspected thigh injury to be replaced by Kieran Gibbs.
Everton appeared to be in a state of shock having conceded so early, but finally provided their first glimpse of a threat on seven minutes when Wojciech Szczesny was forced to swipe the ball away from Nikica Jelavic after a lovely cross by Leighton Baines.
Thomas Vermaelen thumped a free-kick ball through the Everton wall forcing Tim Howard to make a solid stop on 26 minutes, but Everton were suddenly warming to the occasion on a freezing night. They equalised on 28 minutes with Arsenal contributing to their own downfall.
Some sloppy play involving Ramsey and Bacary Sagna saw the ball break kindly for Fellaini to send an effort spinning into the corner of the net from 25 yards out as Szczesny failed to react quickly enough to halt the shot.
It was Fellaini's seventh Premier League goal of the season, and his fourth in his last four outings in the league.
Everton should have moved 2-1 clear five minutes before half-time when the ball broke to Croatian forward Jelavic.
He showed some trademark close control to give Per Mertesacker the slip, but rushed the volley as he lifted the ball over when he seemed likelier to score.
The second half was a bit of a disjointed affair with both sides lacking the real quality in the final third required to win the match. Everton probably had more of a claim to the three points.
Gibbs was forced to make a superb late tackle to deny Steven Naismith a certain goal from a Jelavic pass just after half-time while Szczesny stood tall to prevent Sylvain Distin's header from finding the net before the hour mark.
Arsenal have now won eight and lost none of their last 11 Premier League meetings against Everton, but they remain a point behind David Moyes's side in the standings, who stay fifth one point clear of the visitors.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Theo Walcott - Arsenal: Looked bright on the ball. Scored a fine opening goal, but was let down by some of his team-mates in supporting him. A mature performance from a figure sporting a moustache for Movember. Has now scored 10 times this term.
EVERTON: Howard 7, Hibbert 7, Baines 7, Gibson 5, Jagielka 7, Jelavic 7, Naismith 5, Distin 7, Osman 7, Pienaar 7, Fellaini 7. Subs: Oviedo 6, Hitzlsperger 6.
ARSENAL: Szczesny 7, Sagna 6, Mertesacker 6, Vermaelen 6, Koscielny 5, Arteta 6, Wilshere 6, Giroud 6, Walcott 7, Ramsey 6, Cazorla 6. Arsenal. Subs: Coquelin 6, Gervinho 6, Gibbs 7.
- Sports & Recreation
- Theo Walcott
- Marouane Fellaini