Premier League, Selhurst Park: Crystal Palace 2 (Townsend 49, Tomkins 89) Arsenal 3 (Mustafi 25, Sanchez 62, 66)
Alexis Sanchez was the difference as Arsenal survived a pair of second-half scares to edge past Crystal Palace.
Arsene Wenger took charge of his 810th match in the Premier League – to draw level with Sir Alex Ferguson's record – and his team started quietly and struggled to find openings with Palace sitting deep. But his players gradually took over matters, and on 25 minutes, fine play from Alexandre Lacazette forced Julian Speroni into a parry that went straight to Shkodran Mustafi, and he stroked home the opening goal.
Palace upped their tempo at the start of the second half, and five minutes into it they were level, good work from Wilfried Zaha fashioning an opportunity which was emphatically accepted by Andros Townsend. But Arsenal did not shrink, and 12 minutes later, Alexis Sanchez smashed in a near-post finish after more good work from Lacazette.
Just four minutes later, Arsenal were clear. Jack Wilshere lifted a terrific pass over the top, Sanchez controlled on his thigh, delivered the ball into his stride, and slipped it past Speroni.
But as full-time drew nearer, Palace perked up and Arsenal sat deeper, so it was not entirely surprising that James Tomkins nodded in a livener with four minutes of injury-time still to play.
Arsenal saw it out well enough, though, and will still fancy themselves to get back in the Champions League, as they remain sixth, level on points with Tottenham and just one behind Liverpool in fourth, while Palace will feel themselves plenty good enough to stay up and stay in 16th.
Can Arsenal really afford to sell Sanchez? If the whispers are to be believed, Pep Guardiola plans to make an obnoxiously large offer for Sanchez, and Arsenal would be tempted to accept it. On the face of it, this makes some sense, as they know they will lose him for nothing in the summer. But without him, whoever they bring in instead, they will have far less chance of returning to elite competition, which will cost them a fair whack of that fee. They must stand strong and defer the problem to the close season.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal). Performed with the zeal of man seeking a move, he prompted well in the first half and finished beautifully in the second. A brilliant football player.
Crystal Palace: Speroni 5, Kelly 6, Danny 5, Tomkins 6, Schlupp 6, Milivojevic 5, Cabaye 5, Loftus-Cheek 5, Townsend 6, Zaha 7, Benteke 5. Subs: Mcarthur 6, Sako 6, Fosu-Mensah 6.
Arsenal: Cech 6, Koscielny 6, Mustafi 6, Chambers 5, Bellerin 6, Xhaka 6, Wilshere 7, Kolasinac 5, Ozil 6, Sanchez 8, Lacazette 7. Subs: Maitland-Niles 6, Coquelin 6.
25’ - GOAL! Crystal Palace 0-1 Arsenal (Mustafi) Wilshere wins a free-kick which is tossed into the box and some head-tennis ensues before the ball arrives at the feet of Lacazette, down the right side of the box. He drags it down the outside of Schlupp, checks back leaving his man for a burton, and curls a shot that Speroni can only push back into play, and Mustafi confidently strokes home.
30’ - Kolasinac finds Sanchez, who slides a fine pass into the box for Ozil, arriving with perfect timing; six yards out, he flicks hard, and Speroni does well to save.
38’ - Palace are struggling to create anything now, and Arsenal break on them with alacrity, Ozil spreading to Sanchez who accelerates down the left and returns possession ... oh I say, that's a lovely first touch from Ozil, killing the pace, taking the ball into his stride and losing two men, then shooting with his instep ... but Speroni saves well, getting just enough on it to take it away from Lacazette. Lovely stuff, though.
50’ - GOAL! Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal (Townsend) Townsend starts things at right-back and eventually the ball moves to Schlupp, who slides down the left for Zaha. Faced with Chambers, a succession of lollipops and a change of pace are more than enough to get by him and then a low cross, clipped back for Townsend, is cracked past Cech first time.
62’ - GOAL! Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal (Sanchez) Palace don't clear properly and Chambers lifts the ball towards the back post when the giant Sanchez wins a towering header, nodding down to Lacazette who does really well to hold up and tee him back up for an early spank which rushes past Speroni at his near post before he's noticed anything untoward. Great finish; can Arsenal really think about cashing in on him next month?
66’ - GOAL! Crystal Palace 1-3 Arsenal (Sanchez) And so is this! Wilshere, given time on halfway, lifts a wondrous pass over the top for Sanchez, who takes it beautifully on his knee, opens his body, and slips a finish past Speroni. Out of nothing, this match is duhn!
89’ - Palace have been good these last few minutes and when Bellerin overruns the ball breaking out of defence, Schlupp snaps it away from him and cuts back a cross for Benteke, whose shot is deflected wide.
89’ - GOAL! Crystal Palace 2-3 Arsenal (Tomkins) Over comes the corner and at the back post, Tomkins climbs above Koscielny to head down and in!
Alexis Sanchez has scored or assisted 13 times in his last 15 league London derbies.
Roy Hodgson has won just one of his last 12 Premier League matches against Arsenal (D3 L8).
Jack Wilshere started in four consecutive Premier League games for Arsenal for the first time since March 2014.
Crystal Palace have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last 10 Premier League home games - their longest such run since May 2015 (15).