Arsenal beat Newcastle 2-1 on Monday night, to move within one point of rivals Tottenham. More importantly for manager Arsene Wenger, they are now three points clear of Chelsea, in the race for the final Champions League position. Vindication, perhaps, of Arsene Wenger's faith in his young squad even when everyone else had written them off for the umpteenth time.
Nevertheless, how often have Arsenal flattered to deceive in the recent past? How often have they gone on a magical run of victories only to lose one unexpected game and then seemingly regress to their earlier troubled positions? That is perhaps why it is prudent to take this run of form - 5 wins in a row, in all competitions (including a hugely impressive 3-0 win over AC Milan), with just a pinch of salt.
Wenger sent out as strong a side as he could for the game, with Tomas Rosicky (who seems to have found a new lease of life as well as a new contract), van Persie, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott all starting. Mikel Arteta and Alex Song provided midfield cover for Sagna, Gibbs, Koscielny and Vermaelen; with Szczesny in goal.
Newcastle, meanwhile, opted to start with Papiss Demba Cisse on the bench. Demba Ba led the Magpies attacking force, with Hatem Ben Arfa, Gabriel Obertan and Jonas Gutierrez in attendance. Ismaeil Cheik Tiote, who has been the subject of recent transfer speculation from Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, also started.
However, it proved to be a less than impressive start for the Gunners. First, the normally uber-reliable van Persie missed from six yards out and then a rare error from Thomas Vermaelen was punished. Tiote sent the misplaced pass out to Ben Arfa who fired home. Arsenal were not to be denied though. Van Persie made up for his earlier miss after Rosicky and Walcott combined down the right flank.
The half ended 1-1, despite some slick passing from the home side.
Arsenal continued to press and dominate through the second half, with Walcott, Rosicky (did we mention the new lease of life?), Oxlade-Chamberlain, van Persie and Gervinho all making life very difficult for Tim Krul in the Magpies' goal.
The winning goal, however, seemed elusive and it looked like becoming a traditional Arsenal result - lots of beautiful football but no goals or three points.
Fortunately for Wenger, though, who seemed more and more harassed and rather dejected as the game went on, Vermaelen - the Gunners' most reliable defender, it seems, in ages - was on hand when a 95th minute cross from Walcott was put away, much to the delight of the players, the fans and Wenger.
Arsenal now have 52 points from 28 games and are in fourth position in the league. They will next play Everton, in a league game at Goodison Park, on 21 March.
Newcastle United now have 44 points from 28 games and are in sixth position in the league. They will next play Norwich City, at home in the league, on 18 March.
Arsenal 2 (van Persie 15' and Vermaelen 90') beat Newcastle United 1 (Ben Arfa 14')
Check out photos from Monday's game...