Gerard Deulofeu’s late goal earned Everton a deserved 1-1 draw at Premier League leaders Arsenal after Mesut Ozil’s strike seemed set to seal three points for the home side in a sizzling clash at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
An absorbing contest burst into life in the closing stages as Ozil swept Arsenal in front from close range in the 80th minute, only for substitute Deulofeu to fire a powerful shot past Wojciech Szczesny four minutes later.
Olivier Giroud almost snatched victory in stoppage-time for the hosts when his 30m thunderbolt thumped against the woodwork, although that would have been harsh on Everton, who beat champions Manchester United on Wednesday.
With a treacherous-looking fixture list looming, Arsenal lead the table with 35 points, five clear of Liverpool, who were the only one of the top five to win this weekend.
Chelsea also have 30 points, with Everton — beaten only once in the league this season — fifth on 28.
“We played well at United but we played even better today,” Everton’s impressive new manager Roberto Martinez told reporters. “These two results show we have got over the mental block when playing away at title contenders.”
At the other end of the table, Fulham showed signs of a revival under new manager Rene Meulensteen with a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at Craven Cottage, Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov scoring the goals to snap a six-match losing streak.
Arsenal face Manchester City and Chelsea in their next two league fixtures and looked set to go into those battles with a healthy seven-point cushion after record-signing Ozil netted his fourth league goal since moving from Real Madrid.
It looked as though Arsenal were going to draw a blank at home for the first time this season, but Tomas Rosicky found fellow substitute Theo Walcott with a long diagonal pass and although the England winger’s cross was missed by Giroud, Ozil pounced to finish past Tim Howard.
However, Everton, for whom young midfielder Ross Barkley was superb, refused to go home empty-handed and when Romelu Lukaku failed to connect with an overhead kick, the ball ran to Spanish teenager Deulofeu, who took a touch before arrowing a powerful shot through Szczesny.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger felt it was a fair result.
“They started stronger than us for the first 25 minutes. You have to give credit to them, they always looked dangerous,” he said.
A point was a reward for Everton’s first-half domination, much of which was inspired by the surging runs of Barkley who boosted his claims to a place in England’s World Cup squad. The 20-year-old dominated the midfield as England manager Roy Hodgson watched.
Barkley released Kevin Mirallas in one early raid, but narrowly failed to pick out Lukaku.
Hodgson would have also noted the performance of Costa Rican fullback Bryan Oviedo, who linked well with Steven Pienaar down the left to keep Arsenal pinned back.
Despite their territorial dominance, Everton failed to muster many clear chances and Arsenal ended the half in style.
Everton goalkeeper Howard had to react sharply to deny Giroud and again when Ozil played in Jack Wilshere.
Arsenal began the second period at much higher tempo and Santi Cazorla should have given them the lead, but could only head straight at a grateful Howard.
The game looked to be heading for stalemate until the furious finale concluded another hectic weekend in the league that saw defeats for United and Chelsea.