Giroud sees off gutsy Magpies
Olivier Giroud's first-half double handed Arsenal a sixth successive Barclays Premier League victory as they survived a spirited fightback to win 2-1 at Newcastle.
The Frenchman struck twice inside four minutes to leave the Magpies with a mountain to climb and the home fans among a crowd of 50,543 fearing the worst.
But John Carver's depleted side more than made a fist of it after the break, with Moussa Sissoko's 48th-minute goal dragging them back into it and changing the shape of the game.
However, despite their best efforts to reel in Arsene Wenger's men who are plotting a late charge to force their way into the title race, Newcastle were unable to find the equaliser their belated show of courage warranted.
Fabricio Coloccini's red card at Everton last weekend - for which he apologised to home fans in the match programme - meant he was missing from a rearguard already ripped apart by injury, and Carver had little option but to make do and mend.
He moved right-back Daryl Janmaat into the middle to partner his only fit senior central defender Mike Williamson, and asked midfielders Ryan Taylor and Jack Colback to fill in at right and left-back respectively.
The plan was makeshift in the extreme, and it was not long before it was cruelly exposed as Arsenal eased into their stride.
Newcastle actually created the first real opening with two minutes gone when Sissoko broke from his own half and fed striker Ayoze Perez, who stepped inside defender Gabriel Paulista but saw his shot blocked.
But with Aaron Ramsey probing and linking with Giroud, and Alexis Sanchez relishing his head-to-head with Colback, Arsenal pinned the Magpies back with Sanchez seeing a 13th-minute shot blocked by Taylor before Ramsey miscontrolled when through on goal.
The visitors took the lead with 24 minutes gone when Giroud reacted first after Danny Welbeck flicked on Santi Cazorla's free-kick, sparking a siege on the Newcastle goal.
Welbeck volleyed wide and then allowed the ball to squirm away from him after being played in by Giroud, but the respite was only temporary for the home side, who contributed to their own downfall with 28 minutes on the clock.
Williamson became involved in a wrestling match as the pair awaited Cazorla's corner, and when the ball eventually reached the goalmouth Frenchman Giroud was able to head past goalkeeper Tim Krul despite neither man leaving the ground.
The Magpies looked dead and buried, but they rallied as the half drew to a close with Nacho Monreal blocking Remy Cabella's goal-bound 39th-minute header at the end of an extended period of pressure.
But the boos which ushered the home side from the field were transformed into cheers within three minutes of the restart when Taylor and Cabella twice exchanged passes down the right before the Frenchman crossed for skipper Sissoko to sweep the ball past the helpless David Ospina and reduce the deficit.
The Magpies were instantly reinvigorated and Perez twice fired wide from long distance as Arsenal wobbled in the face of concerted pressure.
Ospina had to be at his best to beat away Williamson's header from a Taylor corner after it clipped Sissoko on its way to goal, and Janmaat blasted a long-range effort just wide seconds later with the home side enjoying their most productive period of the game.
Cabella embarked upon a mazy charge through the visitors' defence with 16 minutes remaining, but he was driven wide and Ospina proved equal to his clipped left-footed shot.
Substitute Jonas Gutierrez announced his arrival with a powerful surge into the penalty area, but his driven cross eluded the black and white shirts as it sped across goal, and Krul had to block a Welbeck effort at his near post as the game opened up.
Referee Mike Jones waved away strong appeals for an 82nd-minute penalty after Cabella went down under Laurent Koscielny's challenge, with the defender less than impressed, and Ospina had to make a fine reaction save to keep out Perez's deflected 87th-minute shot with his leg as the Magpies battled all the way to the whistle.