Arsene Wenger may be grateful for small mercies as he returns to work on Monday.

The Arsenal boss left St James' Park on Saturday evening having seen his side squander a 4-0 lead and emerge with only a point to show for their efforts. At that point, it seemed as though the Gunners had conceded ground in their mission to reel in Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United, who started the day five points to the good.

Wolves then did them an unlikely favour by ending United's unbeaten run with a 2-1 victory at Molineux in the day's late kick-off, but Wenger said: "It doesn't help. We wanted three points, we got one, so we dropped two points."

Wenger had plenty of reasons to be unhappy, although none of them resulted from his team's first-half display.

Arsenal were simply irresistible before the break, and in particular during an opening 10 minutes which saw them establish a 3-0 lead. Theo Walcott sliced Newcastle open to put the visitors ahead within 42 seconds of kick-off, and Johan Djourou's third-minute header doubled the dose.

When Robin van Persie helped himself to a third from Walcott's pull-back, the game was still not 10 minutes old, and the Dutchman's 26th-minute header seemed to have wrapped up a comprehensive victory before the kettle for the half-time tea had even been filled.

Asked if he, like everyone else inside the stadium had thought the game was over by half-time, Wenger replied: "Football is not about what people think, it is about what you do on the football pitch."

What Arsenal did on the football pitch after the restart was implode. Abou Diaby was incensed by Joey Barton's crunching challenge and reacted accordingly. Referee Phil Dowd, however, like Magpies boss Alan Pardew, saw nothing wrong with the tackle and brandished a red card in Diaby's direction, much to Wenger's annoyance.

The officials were to anger the Gunners boss further, however, by awarding Newcastle two penalties, one for Laurent Koscielny's clumsy challenge on Leon Best, and the second, more controversially, as Koscielny and substitute Tomas Rosicky combined to ease Mike Williamson off the ball.

Joey Barton converted both either side of Leon Best's 75th-minute strike - the Republic of Ireland frontman had earlier seen another effort wrongly ruled out for offside - but unfortunately for the visitors, there was more to come. There were three minutes remaining on the clock when Cheik Tiote unleashed a dipping left-foot volley which sped past Wojciech Szczesny and into the bottom corner to complete the most unlikely of fightbacks.

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Topics:
Arsenal
Robin Van Persie
Joey Barton
Leon Best
Football
Johan Djourou
Cheik Tiote
Mike Williamson
Premier League
Newcastle United
Manchester United
Wojciech Szczesny
Tomas Rosicky
Laurent Koscielny
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Theo Walcott