Premier League leaders Arsenal held by Everton
London: Premier League leaders Arsenal were left five points clear at the top of the Premier League after visitors Everton fought back to claim a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
It seemed the Gunners were about to go seven points clear of second-placed Liverpool when club record signing Mesut Ozil fired them into the lead with just 10 minutes left at the Emirates Stadium.
But four minutes later Everton, fresh from a win away to champions Manchester United in midweek, equalised when Gerard Deulofeu smashed the ball home from 10 yards.
Then, with almost the last kick of the match, Arsenal`s French striker Olivier Giroud saw his long-range shot hit the post with Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard beaten.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was pleased with the lead his side had established over nearest pursuers Liverpool and Chelsea.
"Not bad to take - ideally wanted seven but at least we`ve got five," Wenger told Sky Sports.
"It gives a little bit of a cushion to play in a serene way against other teams," the Frenchman added.
"Overall, we have to congratulate Everton as they played very well and started better but, saying that, Tim Howard made three excellent saves.
"We know we have quality and at least we took a point."
Sunday`s draw kept Everton in fifth place.
"The performance -- I couldn`t be happier," said Everton manager Roberto Martinez.
"The only bit of criticism is you need to take your chances, in the final third we were not ruthless enough," the Spaniard added.
"But I am really, really pleased. The character is really strong. We conceded really late from an unlikely source but we didn`t accept defeat."
Earlier, relegation-threatened Fulham gave Rene Meulensteen his first win as their manager with a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.
Steve Sidwell put the hosts in front in the 21st minute when he scored against his old side after lofting the ball over the advancing Brad Guzan.
Fulham, who previously hadn`t scored two goals at home all season, then doubled their lead through a controversial penalty nine minutes later.
Alex Kacaniklic broke clear and charged into the box where he appeared to make the initial contact with Villa`s Leandro Bacuna.
But referee Mike Dean awarded a penalty and Dimitar Berbatov, after selling Guzan a dummy, rolled the ball into the bottom corner.
Victory saw Fulham, beaten 2-1 by Tottenham in Meulensteen`s first game in charge on Wednesday after he succeeded fellow Dutchman Martin Jol, climb one place into 18th spot but remain in the relegation zone.
However, their tally of 13 points left them level with London rivals Crystal Palace and West Ham, the two clubs either side of them in the table, and in the bottom three on goal difference alone.
Meulensteen praised the work of Berbatov, who had a hand in both goals.
"I thought he was excellent on Wednesday as well, and again you saw what he was capable of doing."
Berbatov has been linked with a move away from Craven Cottage in the January transfer window but Meulensteen, who worked with the Bulgarian at Old Trafford, said: "I can`t, couldn`t, wouldn`t and don`t want to answer that, it`s my decision to do that with the people who are relevant to discuss these things."
Villa manager Paul Lambert was upset his side didn`t receive a penalty following Aaron Hughes`s challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor.
"I don`t think we did enough to win the game," he said.
"Where I`m disappointed is the penalty...Gabby got a foot on it first, and it`s moments like that that change the game."
Villa`s defeat means both Swansea and Hull will have the chance to leapfrog them into the top half of the table when they meet at the Liberty Stadium on Monday.