Robin van Persie reacts after scoring a free-kick in Arsenal's 2-1 win over Sunderland. REUTERS

Robin van Persie snatched a late winner for Arsenal as they beat Sunderland 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners' captain broke the deadlock after just 29 seconds - the fastest goal ever scored by Arsenal.

But the visitors hit back after half an hour when former Arsenal midfielder Sebastian Larsson fired home an exquisite freekick.

Arsenal came into Sunday's game on the back of a 2-1 defeat against bitter rivals Tottenham with Arsene Wenger's side languishing just four points of the relegation zone.

They got off to the best possible start when van Persie fired home the opening goal and a comfortable result looked on the cards when van Persie went close again soon after.

However, when Mikel Arteta conceeded a needless freekick 25 yards from goal, Larsson stepped up to curl the ball into the top corner. The goal precipitated a nervy final 15 minutes for Arsenal and only a brilliant save from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny denied Lee Cattermole's close-range header.

It was looking like being another frustrating afternoon for the home support as Gervinho and van Persie failed to hit the target. But the Arsenal captain hit the winner eight minutes from times to take the Gunners into the top half of the Premier League.