Burnley’s battle for Premier League survival starts now.
Nobody had given Sean Dyche’s side a prayer going in to a schedule of successive fixtures against the division’s top eight, but a return of five points has kept last season’s Championship runners up in touch with their rivals.
Now they must make those ‘bonus’ points count with six games remaining, which includes the visits of Leicester City and Stoke City to Turf Moor as well as clashes against Hull City and Aston Villa on the road.
With seven points separating the Foxes at the foot of the table and Tim Sherwood’s Villains in 15th - with both clubs winning over the weekend - there’s still everything to play for.
Four points from recent home games against defending champions Manchester City and Spurs had given the Clarets hope going in to Saturday’s late kick-off against Arsenal in front of the Sky cameras.
However, on current form, this was another step up in class with the Gunners having won 10 of their previous 11 league matches.
Arsene Wenger’s side, who comfortably dispatched of Liverpool at the Emirates over Easter weekend, also had 10 different scorers contributing to a tally of 28 goals in that sequence, a divisional high.
One of those scorers, Aaron Ramsey, gave the FA Cup holders, and this term’s semi-finalists, the lead in the 12th minute.
The Welsh midfielder capitalised on some desperate defending from the hosts, after Ben Mee had proved uneconomical in possession, and fired in to the roof of the net once Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Francis Coquelin had been thwarted in their attempts to beat Tom Heaton.
Both sides had crafted openings before the deadlock was broken. Heaton was equal to Sanchez’s whipped set-piece, despite the deceptive late movement on the ball, after the Chilean was carelessly upended by Kieran Trippier.
The Champions League dropouts had conceded in six of their last eight Premier League fixtures and they looked susceptible when Sam Vokes cut inside past Hector Bellerin down Arsenal’s right, but David Ospina denied the striker from an acute angle.
After Sanchez lifted an attempt over the bar after profiting from David Jones’s poor touch, the away side took the lead.
With Mee gifting the ball to Coquelin, £30m former Barcelona forward Sanchez’s deflected effort squirmed kindly to Ozil, goalkeeper Heaton saved with his legs, Frenchman Coquelin drilled at Michael Duff, before Ramsey lifted the rebound in to the roof of the net.
Vokes’s international team-mate has now been involved in five goals in his last four Premier League appearances, scoring twice with three assists.
The Gunners, as always, were pleasing on the eye, their movement with the ball almost mesmeric at times. But the visitors didn’t have it all their own way.
Jones was given an unchallenged sight of goal from 20 yards out when Ashley Barnes was unceremoniously bundled to the turf by Coquelin. However, the midfielder’s delicately struck set-piece clipped the wall.
Jones was stood over the ball again when Barnes was fouled in an aerial battle with Laurent Koscielny, but this time it was Trippier who took responsibility. The Burnley right back cleared the wall but was denied by a flying save from Ospina who went to his right hand side to beat the ball away.
Then, sticking with the recent trend of dead ball situations, the Gunners had an opportunity of their own. After Duff had handled, Cazorla forced Heaton to reach to his upright at full stretch though the ball flashed beside the near post.
The Clarets probed after the break, searching for the equaliser that would take them a step closer to the Tigers and the Black Cats who loiter on the periphery of the relegation zone.
Heaton foiled Sanchez’s right-footed drive from distance as the home side’s defence stood resolute while at the other end Ospina comfortably gathered Barnes’s hooked effort.
As the half wore on, without any clear cut chances, Trippier almost turned in to his own net from Bellerin’s centre before Cazorla thumped an effort over the bar from the resulting corner.
The hosts were lacking that one moment of quality in the stalemate against Spurs and it was a similar story again. However, that one occasion came from the most unlikely of sources when Mee threaded the ball through the aperture between Bellerin’s legs and squared for George Boyd at the back post, but the winger failed to connect with the delivery.
Danny Ings’s inventive acrobatics tested Ospina after Vokes and Scott Arfield had combined from Trippier’s diagonal but the Colombian stopper plunged to his right to save.
Wenger was intent on settling the match and introduced Danny Welbeck at the expense of Olivier Giroud with less than 10 minutes to play, and the former Manchester United striker almost obliged when his strike was diverted away by the outstretched leg of Jason Shackell before Trippier tidied up the loose ball.
The Clarets were boosted by the return of midfielder Matt Taylor, who replaced Jones late on after being sidelined for seven-and-a-half months with an achilles injury, but it’s now just one goal in six games for the Clarets who travel to Goodison Park to tackle Everton on Saturday.