Sunderland 1 Arsenal 4
A second-half fightback turned to dust at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland imploded against Arsenal following Jermain Defoe’s equalising penalty.
Alexis Sanchez’s clinical header handed the Gunners a 1-0 lead at the interval, but the Black Cats regrouped following the restart and Defoe levelled from the spot after Petr Cech hauled down Duncan Watmore.
It should have been the catalyst for Sunderland as Adnan Januzaj came off the bench and they went in search of a first Premier League win, but it was another substitution which turned the tide as Olivier Giroud took centre stage.
The Frenchman volleyed home to complete a sweeping move on 71 minutes before his superfluous header made it 3-1 five minutes later.
And the Black Cats’ frustrations were compounded before the 80-minute mark, with Sanchez grabbing his second – Arsenal’s third in seven minutes – to wrap up the points.
David Moyes made one change to the side who faced West Ham United in the club’s last Premier League outing, with Billy Jones replacing Javier Manquillo who dropped to the bench.
John O’Shea, Steven Pienaar and Defoe returned to the starting XI after being rested at St Mary’s, but the pre-match buzz came from the bench as Januzaj was named in the squad for the first time since September.
A nervy start from the home side saw Sanchez chase down Jordan Pickford’s attempted clearance, but a brief chorus from the away supporters was swiftly drowned out as the Black Cats battled their way back into the contest.
Sanchez remained the focal point for the Gunners and he carved out the first opportunity of the game, with Mesut Ozil latching onto the Chilean’s through ball before curling a tame effort at goal.
Moments later the former Barcelona man broke clean through, but expert defending from Lamine Kone saw him thwart the forward and divert the danger before Alex Iwobi lifted the ball wide following a similar move.
Despite lifting the home support the Black Cats’ robust challenges simply galvanised the Gunners who broke the deadlock on 19 minutes.
Unsurprisingly, Sanchez was the scorer but the danger could and possibly should have been averted, with Arsene Wenger’s side allowed too much time and space as Mohamed Elneny worked the ball wide towards Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The England international picked his cross and Kone looked in pole position to clear, but the Chilean arrived bang on the money to flick a header beyond Pickford and into the far corner.
A disallowed goal followed as Defoe’s effort was correctly chalked off by the linesman, but it didn’t take long for the Gunners to reassert their dominance.
Sanchez remained unshackled in the no.10 role and he continued to dictate the tempo of the game, teasing the Sunderland defence and tormenting them at every opportunity.
The next two chances fell to Ozil as Khazri dawdled in possession before hauling the German to ground to deny a one on one, with the German breaking through moments later only to feather his lob into the reach of Pickford.
Moyes’ side needed a lift but what followed was another bitter blow as they lost their captain, with O’Shea limping down the tunnel and into the treatment room moments before the half-time whistle.
Gabon international Ndong made a bright start to the second period and he dragged Sunderland forward with regularity, but the Gunners remained a constant threat on the break.
Substitute Papy Djilobodj was booked as Sanchez picked up where he left off, but the opening chance of the second 45 fell to the Black Cats as a well-worked move resulted in Khazri shooting wide from an offside position.
Sunderland’s confidence continued to increase, as did their time on the ball, and seconds after Sanchez was denied a penalty the Black Cats broke and Watmore raced through on goal.
The England under-21 international showed superb feet to skip past Cech who brought the winger tumbling to the ground, leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot as all eyes fell on Defoe.
The result was inevitable, and Sunderland were level with 25 minutes to play.
Five minutes later Januzaj and Giroud entered the fray as both managers went in search of three points.
And within seconds, Wenger was rewarded.
The Gunners sliced through Sunderland like a knife through butter and the Frenchman finished with aplomb from ten yards after greeting Kieran Gibbs’ cross.
Often frustrated by a lack of playing time this season, Giroud showed his class again five minutes later as he beat Djilobodji at the near post and looped a header into the net.
It was all too easy for the Gunners and 120 seconds later they were wheeling away once more, Sanchez converting from close range after Ozil crashed an effort against the post.
Floored by the impressive Gunners, Sunderland never recovered and the Londoners left Wearside with a comfortable three points in tow.
Sunderland: Pickford, Jones, van Aanholt, O’Shea (Djilobdoji 41), Kone, Rodwell, Ndong, Pienaar (Januzaj 69), Khazri, Watmore (Gooch 83), Defoe.
Subs not used: Mika, Manquillo, Love, Anichebe.
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Ramsey 77), Ozil, Iwobi (Giroud 69), Sanchez.
Subs not used: Gabriel, Ospina, Holding, Jenkinson, Maitland-Niles.