Nelson to the rescue as super sub sends Emirates wild with last-minute winner
Arsenal 3 (Partey, 62, White, 70, Nelson, 90+6)
AFC Bournemouth 2 (Billing, 1, Senesi, 57)
Win it or not, 2-0 down, 3-2 up - that is what champions are made of.
Substitute Reiss Nelson’s cracking drive at the end of the very last of six added minutes gave Arsenal a monumental win - and maintained their five-point cushion over Manchester City in the Premier League title race
Second half goals from Thomas Partey and Ben White had cancelled out efforts from Philip Billing and Marcos Senesi – Billing’s goal coming after an almost unbelievable 11 seconds – before Nelson proved the unlikeliest of heroes.
The Cherries kicked off, worked the ball to the right, crossed it into the centre and, after the Gunners failed to clear, it was converted by Philip Billing.
The Gunners responded with a period of relentless pressure, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka seeing shots well saved by Neto in the Bournemouth goal.
Aaron Ramsdale then produced a stunning save of his own to prevent the visitors from doubling their lead on 18 minutes.
A Billing centre from the left found the wonderfully named Dango Aboubacar Faissal Ouattara free, but he was immediately closed down by the onrushing Ramsdale, who threw up an arm to stop the shot.
Leandro Trossard hobbled off midway through the first half, a worry considering Eddie Nketiah is also injured and Gabriel Jesus is still a couple of weeks away from a return to action.
Fabio Vieira, who surprisingly took the rested Granit Xhaka’s place in the starting 11, then went on a mazy run which was thwarted by the last Bournemouth defender, before VAR turned down a number of Arsenal appeals for handball in the box – this one against Chris Mepham.
Arsenal’s constant pressure was only punctured on the odd occasion by Bournemouth’s breakaways – but despite their dominance the Gunners were struggling with end product.
Oleksandr Zinchenko then saw a shot blocked for a corner, with the Cherries defending with 10 men behind the ball.
Gabriel Martinelli then hit the side netting, but the visitors held out for the half-time lead.
Ben White replaced the disappointing Takehiro Tomiyasu at right-back at half-time, and Arsenal started the second-half on the front foot, forcing a succession of corners – but once again failed to really test Neto, being restricted to efforts from range.
Odegaard’s shot from the edge of the box was easily saved, while Martinelli saw an effort sail over the bar.
Then, on 57 minutes, and completely against the run of play, it was 2-0, Senesi heading home a corner from the left when left completely free in the box.
Arsenal pushed again, Saka’s cross almost turned into the net by a defender, before the Gunners did pull one back, Thomas Partey volleying in Emile Smith-Rowe’s looping header at the far post.
Dominic Solanke was close to restoring the visitors’ two-goal advantage almost immediately, Ramsdale saving with his legs from close range.
But Arsenal were level on 70 minutes, Ben White volleying in Nelson’s cross.
Martinelli then created a chance for himself, latching on to Partey’s long ball but shooting just over the bar. Saka then pulled a shot wide to the right.
Bournemouth were wasting time at even available opportunity.
But the Gunners threw one last shot at them, Zinchenko cracking an effort across the face of the box, which was deflected for a corner.
The corner fell to Nelson at the far post, and his arrowing shot sent the Emirates wild – not for the first time this season and, from an Arsenal point of view, hopefully not the last.
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Partey, Gabriel, Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Saliba, Tomiyasu (White, h-t), Trossard (Smith-Rowe, 22, Nelson, 69), Vieira (Xhaka, 84), Zinchenko
AFC Bournemouth: Neto, Stephens, Mepham, Solanke, Ouattara (Christie, 82), Rothwell, Smith, Semenyo (Anthony, 64), Senesi, Billing, Zemuram (Fredericks, 64)
Referee: Christopher Kavanagh