Arsenal reduced Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League to two points after a deserved victory in a tense encounter at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners knew defeat was unthinkable and their cause was helped hugely by two errors from Liverpool’s normally reliable keeper Alisson, who gifted Arsenal the goals that ensured three crucial points.
It sparked joyous scenes at the final whistle as Arsenal condemned Liverpool to only their second league defeat this season, their first since a highly controversial loss at Tottenham in late September.
Arsenal were rewarded for a lightning start when Bukayo Saka gave them a 14th-minute lead, turning home a rebound after Alisson saved from Kai Havertz.
The hosts dominated proceedings but a defensive shambles allowed Liverpool to restore parity seconds before the break, Gabriel turning the ball into his own net via his hand after a mix-up between keeper David Raya and William Saliba as they challenged Luis Diaz.
Liverpool carried more momentum after the interval with Alexis Mac Allister going close twice and Curtis Jones just off target before the Gunners were the next beneficiaries of a calamitous error, this time between Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, that saw them restore their lead after 67 minutes.
Alisson rushed from his goal and kicked fresh air as Van Dijk tried to deal with a long clearance, leaving Gabriel Martinelli with the simplest of finishes into an empty net.
And Liverpool’s misery was compounded in the closing stages when defender Ibrahima Konate was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Havertz, before substitute Leandro Trossard added a third in stoppage time – Alisson once again at fault as he allowed a routine near-post shot through his legs.
Arsenal come through fierce test
Arsenal’s worst fears were sweeping around the Emirates when a defensive blunder seconds before half-time allowed Liverpool to go in level, after Mikel Arteta’s side had controlled the first 45 minutes and barely allowed the league leaders a chance.
The atmosphere was suddenly subdued, the mood shifting markedly, and when Liverpool looked to move through the gears in the early stages of the second half Arsenal looked unsettled.
Instead the Gunners showed great character to gather themselves and reassert their authority and – while they were thankful for a rare off-day from the usually outstanding Alisson – this was a real show of steel that resulted in a win that will send belief surging through Arteta and his players.
Arsenal wanted to banish memories of their recent FA Cup third-round loss here to Liverpool, when they paid the price for missing a succession of chances, and this was the perfect response on a day when another defeat would have surely ended their title hopes.
Now, after a win at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, this has been an ideal week for the Gunners who are right in the heart of the Premier League title race.
And at the heart of this win was the exciting Martinelli, a constant threat to Liverpool as well as a goalscorer, while Declan Rice was imperious in midfield.
The celebrations after the final whistle showed how important this was to Arsenal – and who can blame them for enjoying the moment?