LONDON: Arsenal re-established themselves as serious contenders for their first Premier League title since 2004 with a comfortable 2-0 victory at lowly Bournemouth on Sunday.
A first win in four games took them level on 48 points with second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, their bitter local rivals who have a superior goal difference.
Mesut Ozil tucked away the opener in the 23rd minute for his first goal since netting in December’s reverse fixture against Bournemouth.
And only 88 seconds later, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struck to end a 17-month wait for a Premier League goal.
Arsene Wenger’s team are still five points behind leaders Leicester City but play at home to them next Sunday.
It was their first league win since Jan 2, since when they had played two goalless draws and lost 1-0 to Chelsea.
“It was a must-win game for us today,” Wenger told BBC Sport.
“Leicester have made a big impression in the last week after their results. They suddenly become the favourite in the Premier League and it makes our game [next week] a big game.”
On Saturday, Tottenham enhanced their own title chances by defeating Watford courtesy of a 64th-minute goal from right-back Kieran Trippier, who tapped in a delightful left-wing cross from substitute Dele Alli at White Hart Lane.
“We need to be calm,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino told the BBC.
“We are in a very good position in the league, but the philosophy from the beginning of the season has been to go step by step.
“We are a very young squad so it is important to keep going and take every game and competition and be ready to compete.”
NEWCASTLE ESCAPE DROP ZONE
Elsewhere, Newcastle United clawed their way out of the relegation zone after Aleksandar Mitrovic netted in a 1-0 home victory over West Bromwich Albion.
Norwich City dropped into the bottom three after a 2-0 defeat at basement club Aston Villa while Sunderland, in 19th place, scored twice in the final eight minutes to draw 2-2 at Liverpool, whose manager Jurgen Klopp was absent due to appendicitis.
Despite losing Dejan Lovren and Joe Allen to injury, Liverpool went 2-0 up through Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana.
But Liverpool’s fans deserted the stadium in droves in the 77th minute in protest at rising ticket prices and Sunderland fought back, Adam Johnson curling in a free-kick before Jermain Defoe equalised in the 89th minute.
Liverpool were overtaken by crosstown rivals Everton, who moved into eighth place by winning 3-0 at Stoke City.
All of Everton’s goals came in the first half, Romelu Lukaku netting an 11th-minute penalty before Seamus Coleman and Aaron Lennon found the net.
On the south coast, Maya Yoshida put Southampton ahead against West Ham United and the hosts survived Victor Wanyama being sent off for a lunge on Dimitri Payet in the 54th minute to win 1-0.
Southampton are two points behind sixth-placed West Ham.
Crystal Palace ended a run of five straight defeats with a 1-1 draw at Swansea City, where Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 13th-minute free-kick for the hosts was cancelled out by a close-range Scott Dann effort.