’s class helped them see out a tension clash with Hull as goals from Denilson, Eduardo and Abou Diaby kept up their title contention.

On evidence of last season’s feisty meetings, Saturday’s late kick-off was one to tune in for and it did not disappoint.

But all the drama went Arsenal’s way this time and amid flying tempers and controversies, there were also turning points – Denilson’s goal just on the stroke of half-time and more significantly, Almunia’s penalty save while the Gunners were nursing that 1-0 lead.

Arsenal showed full enthusiasm from the start, but so did the Tigers – who even had better tries at goal – as Craig Fagan dragged an early chance wide before Almunia had to get behind Stephen Hunt’s free-kick.

It took Arsenal a while to reply, with Diaby seeing a drive from the edge of the box deflected behind and Sami Nasri then firing straight at City goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

Eduardo then curled an effort just past Myhill’s far post before Hunt foiled his attempt to steal in behind the Hull defence with a finely-tuned penalty box intervention.

Andrey Arshavin, the Russia forward, had been quiet but came to life with a run that ended with a shot from distance that comfortably cleared the crossbar.

Nasri and Hunt were booked for their part in a bad-tempered pushing match that involved plenty of other members of both teams after the Arsenal man had stood on Richard Garcia’s foot.

George Boateng was penalised for a foul on Nasri deep into first-half stoppage time and at last the Hull resistance was broken, with Denilson sending a perfectly struck free-kick over the wall and beyond Myhill.

Nicky Barmby, who had been first to react angrily to the Nasri incident, was booked after the half-time whistle and replaced by Seyi Olofinjana.

Eduardo missed a great chance to make to 2-0 early in the second period when he failed to hit the target despite a fine first touch to take Arshavin’s pass away from his challenger.

Hull though were awarded a penalty in the 55th minute when Mikael Silvestre was adjudged to have pulled Fagan back by the shirt.

Giovanni, who had scored in last season’s win, saw his spot-kick parried by Almunia but looked set to convert the rebound only for Hunt to get in the way and head wide.

Within four minutes Eduardo made that error all the worse for Hull by doubling Arsenal’s lead with a simple close-range finish after Diaby, having exchanged passes with Alex Song on the left of the box, had set him up.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger introduced youngsters Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott in the knowledge that victory was all but assured.

And Diaby then made it 3-0 with a rising drive in the 80th minute to confirm Hull’s demise, the Frenchman exchanging passes with Arshavin before shooting over Myhill.

Walcott missed a chance when he fired wide after Denilson’s long ball over the top had unhinged the Hull defence but by then Arsenal had already capitalised on Fulham’s 3-0 defeat of United across London earlier on Saturday.

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