Arsenal outplayed Manchester City for the vast majority of Sunday's match, but it stayed scoreless until an 87th minute screamer from Mikel Arteta ended City's title hopes and put Roberto Mancini's job on notice.
The 1-0 Arsenal win put the title all but out of reach for Mancini's men as the gap between them and Manchester United opened to eight points with just six games remaining in the Premier League season.
Arsenal Off to a Quick Start
The Gunners came out flying at the Emirates. If not for the repeated intervention of City center backs Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott, the score could have gotten out of hand quickly.
Things got worse for the visitors when Yaya Toure came up lame in the 10th minute after a challenge from Alex Song. Toure would limp around for a couple more minutes before being withdrawn from the match.
Arsenal were denied an opener in the 16th minute when their own center back got in the way of a goal-bound header.
Laurent Koscielny flicked a corner kick on at the near post, Robin Van Persie turned it toward the gaping net, but Thomas Vermaelen couldn't get out of the way as he crashed in on goal.
The ball struck the back of Vermaelen's head and Joe Hart breathed a sigh of relief as it bounced harmlessly off his crossbar.
Mario Balotelli Escapes His First Red Card
In the 20th minute, a challenge from Mario Balotelli on Song should have resulted in Mancini's side playing the rest of the match a man down.
As the two players closed on a bouncing ball, the forward brought his studs high into the air and brought them crunching down into Song's knee.
To the fury of Arsene Wenger and the home support, referee Martin Atkinson saw nothing wrong and his whistle remained silent.
Song would hobble for a short time, but eventually return to the appearance of full strength.
City Come Into the Game
After Balotelli's challenge, City managed to get a foot into the match. Their first real chance came from a corner in the 26th minute when Balotelli peeled into free space in the middle of the area.
The corner found him, but the Italian mishit his shot and saw the weak result blocked out by Arsenal's defense.
Just ten minutes later, David Pizarro looked to release Balotelli through the middle.
The run and pass were perfect, the defenders were beaten, but Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczęsny was too quick off his line and cleared the danger.
The game would reach the half way mark scoreless.
Mancini Makes Adjustments
Following the halftime chat, City came out the stronger side at the beginning of the second period. Sergio Aguero finally showed up in the initial couple minutes, forcing two timely interventions out of Vermaelen at the back.
City's best chance of the game came in the 53rd when Samir Nasri looped a cross in over the top of Arsenal's defenders. Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta both ran free onto it.
Unfortunately, the two ended up in each other's way and the headed ball popped into the air where Szczesny was able to tip it harmlessly over.
Arsenal Regain Control
For the last 30 minutes, things went Arsenal's way. In the 62nd minute, Song dropped a ball onto Van Persie's head in the center of goal. RVP redirected it toward goal only to see it ping back off the post.
Less than ten minutes later, Song threatened to put Van Persie in again. The midfielder drove at the center of City's defense before playing down the left to the Dutchman.
Van Persie beat a defender and put the ball in the net, but the linesman had correctly signaled for offside.
A chance in the 76th minute must have left Arsenal fans feeling it just wasn't their day to score when Bacary Sagna cut the ball back from the right side to Theo Walcott.
Walcott turned the ball goal ward, but Joe Hart got a hand in the way to send it off the post. A rushing Vermaelen dove in only to mishit the rebound into the stomach of Yossi Benayoun. Benayoun's futile swing at the erratically bouncing ball yielded nothing and the chance died.
Arteta Puts City Out of Their Misery
The game was ticking toward its end when Mikel Arteta intervened. After taking the ball off Pizarro about 30 yards out, Arteta took a touch to settle, looked up, and fired into the bottom corner of Joe Hart's net.
Balotelli would pick up a second yellow card and be dismissed in the 90th minute as he tried to regain possession from Sagna, but that would be the only notably City response before the end.
With the final whistle, Arsenal took sole possession of third place in the table opening a two point gap between them and Tottenham.
Manchester City dropped to a hopeless position, eight points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's leaders.
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