Arsenal went into the game against Stoke knowing a defeat could allow the chasing trio of Newcastle, Tottenham and Chelsea (all of whom have played, so far, fewer games than the Gunners) back into the race to finish third in the league and claim the final automatic Champions League spot.

Arsene Wenger, in an earlier IBTimes UK report, ruled out winger Theo Walcott and cast doubts over midfielder Abou Diaby's fitness. However, while Walcott was not named, Frenchman Diaby made the bench, as did youngster Francis Coquelin, who has spent much of the season injured. On the field, the Gunners' boss named Tomas Rosicky and Gervinho as partners for captain Robin van Persie up front, with Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey and Yossi Benayoun starting behind them. Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna started ahead of Wojiech Szczesny in goal.

Tony Pulis, meanwhile, started with Robert Huth, the infamous Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson and Ryan Shotton ahead of keeper Asmir Begovic. Glenn Whelan, Dean Whitehead, Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant were in midfield, supporting Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch.

The first half started with an indication of how Stoke were set out to play. Whitehead received the first yellow card of the game on three minutes, after a foul on Song. Stoke then went on the attack a little bit with Whitehead and Pennant trying to feed team mates through. Unfortunately they were caught offside both times.

Arsenal's first meaningful attacking move resulted in Benayoun forcing a save out of Begovic and when van Persie forced a second save two minutes later, it seemed only a matter of time before the opener.

However, it was not Arsenal who scored.

Crouch, a recognised aerial threat from set pieces, punished Vermaelen and Koscielny with a fine header to the bottom right corner, off a cross from Etherington. It was Stoke 1 - Arsenal 0 and visions of frustrating afternoons of excellent passing but no goals were floating before Wenger's eyes.

There is, however, a newfound sense of purpose in the Gunners' ranks this season. They regrouped and came roaring back.

Ramsey had a shot on goal that went wide minutes after Crouch's opener and when van Persie was left alone mere yards from Stoke's goal, a couple of minutes after that, the scores were level. The charged-up Gunners pressed on, looking for the lead. Robin van Persie, Koscielny and Gervinho were all denied in quick succession.

Stoke tried a couple of counterattacks as half time beckoned but were called offside on both occasions. There was just enough time, however, for Shawcross and Huth to have efforts blocked.

The half time score was Stoke 1 - Arsenal 1.

The second half began with an absolute flurry of chances for the visitors, as the Gunners laid siege to Stoke's goal. Robin van Persie had two shots in three minutes, with Gervinho and Vermaelen also asking questions.

Pulis responded by bringing Matthew Upson on for Shotton but it really did not change much. However, Stoke did manage in stemming Arsenal attacks and as the match reached and passed the hour mark both teams were struggling to make attacking inroads and had to be content with a bunch of fouls and two yellow cards - for Benayoun and Song.

However, by about the 70th minute Arsenal were back on top and notwithstanding a one-off effort from Whitehead, van Persie, Vermaelen and Ramsey were back to test Begovic. Wenger then took Ramsey off to give Diaby a run out.

Stoke did manage some pressure, with back-to-back corners, in the 75th minute but could not make anything happen. Cameron Jerome, who came on for Pennant in the 78th minute, had some impact, drawing a free kick from Diaby and then forcing a save from Szczesny from the resulting kick.

By this time it was fairly evident Wenger would have to settle for a point.

Final Score:
Stoke City 1 (Crouch 9') drew with Arsenal 1 (van Persie 15')

Stoke will next play Everton at home on 1 May, while Arsenal will entertain Norwich City on 5 May.

Stoke City's Peter Crouch (L) celebrates his goal as Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs reacts during their English Premier League soccer match at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-On-Trent, central England April 28, 2012.Reuters
Arsenal's Robin van Persie (L) scores past Stoke City's Asmir Begovic during their English Premier League soccer match at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-On-Trent, central England April 28, 2012.Reuters
Arsenal's Yossi Benayoun goes to ground after a challenge from Stoke City's Glenn Whelan (L) during their English Premier League soccer match at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-On-Trent, central England, April 28, 2012.Reuters
Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs (R) challenges Stoke City's Jermaine Pennant during their English Premier League soccer match at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-On-Trent, central England, April 28, 2012.Reuters
Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger (L) shakes hands with his Stoke City counterpart Tony Pulis after their English Premier League soccer match at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-On-Trent, central England, April 28, 2012.Reuters