Arsenal got the job done the hard way against Sunderland but enjoyed a rich reward as they moved within 2 points of second place.
Top performer Emmanuel Eboue worked incredibly well to set up a tap-in for Bendtner to put Arsenal ahead after 27 minutes but there was a nervy wait for that killer second goal and it took until injury time for Fabregas to capitalize on a penalty as the Gunners won 2-0.
Arsenal dominated proceedings from kick-off but it was as you know at the Emirates, with efforts in the final third very taming.
Along with Eboue, Theo Walcott did well to torment McCartney with his pace and got past his marker on 16 minutes before being foiled by Craig Gordon from a tight angle.
Arsenal’s target man Bendtner freely roamed about and occasionally found himself in good positions in the box – one of which resulted in his close-range shot being met by Gordon.
Sunderland were there for the taking at this point and when Eboue turned impressively and surged into the visitors territory, their resistance was finally broken. The Ivorian found Bendtner with a pass across goal and the Dane easily tapped it home to give Arsenal the lead after 27 patient minutes.
Yet, Arsenal’s dominance in attack always meant occasional slacking in defense and there was another heart-in-mouth moment when Kenwyne Jones was teed up by Richardson on the stroke of half-time. The Trinidadian was one-on-one with Almunia with the freedom of the Emirates to equalize but Jones managed to spare the blushes of Ramsey who had lost possesion at the wrong place.
Arsenal’s onslaught continued after the break and Gordon was called into further action soon after the restart to deny first Walcott and then Thomas Vermaelen with a stinging free-kick.
But still Arsene Wenger’s side could not find a way through for a second time on the day and the longer the score remained at just 1-0, the more tense the home crowd became.
And as they did in the first half, Sunderland proved they had lingering hopes of an equalizer and if not for an excellent Almunia save, they would have got it. Bent shrugged off Silvestre’s challenge and found his way into the host’s area but Arsenal’s goalkeeper rushed out to deny the striker’s effort with his legs.
Sunderland were left to rue that, and Jones’s earlier miss, as Arsenal’s pile more fruitless pressure at the other end. Walcott – who later went off for Sagna – tried to pounce on a lose ball from close-range but could only meet Gordon before Samir Nasri – later replaced by Rosicky – whipped Eboue’s cut-back cross wide with his left foot.
It was nail-biting time for the Arsenal fans in injury time but their nerves were soon calmed by referee Steve Bennet.
Frazier Campbell was adjudged to have brought down Fabregas right on the edge of the box and the Gunners were awarded a penalty kick. He missed the only spot-kick Arsenal had earned this campaign against Stoke City but Fabregas cooly found the net this time to clinch a vital win.