Arsenal moved to the Premier League summit as Mesut Ozil inspired a 2-0 win over AFC Bournemouth.
Arsene Wenger's side had passed up the chance to claim top spot when Southampton thrashed them 4-0 on Saturday and they were tentative during the early exchanges this time around at Emirates Stadium.
But recalled centre-back Gabriel scored his first Arsenal goal to settle the nerves after 27 minutes.
That came from an Ozil corner, the playmaker's 16th assist in the Premier League this term, and he soon took his club goal tally to five for the season as well with a wonderfully taken second after the hour.
The home side could not add further gloss to a scoreline that ended Bournemouth's impressive six-match unbeaten run but, unless Leicester City beat Manchester City on Tuesday night, Arsenal will lead the way at the mid point of a thrillingly unpredictable title race.
There was also reason to celebrate for Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech, as the 2-0 scoreline ensured him of a record-breaking 170th clean sheet - taking the landmark outright from David James.
Wenger made four changes to the side beaten heavily at Southampton as Gabriel, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earned starts.
Josh King returned from a hamstring injury to lead the Bournemouth attack, while Marc Pugh was preferred to Junior Stanislas on the left.
Eddie Howe's team made a confident start, with Charlie Daniels' low cross scrambled out of the Arsenal goalmouth and Gabriel blocking a volley from Harry Arter.
Arsenal struggled for clear sights of goal - Theo Walcott failing to make a good connection with Ozil's chipped pass - until Bournemouth gifted them the opener.
Goalkeeper Artur Boruc remained rooted to his line and Gabriel charged unmarked on to an in-swinging Ozil corner to head home.
Gabriel was involved again as the hosts comically missed out on a second - the Brazilian glancing Ozil's delivery against the far post before the rebound struck centre-back partner Per Mertesacker in the face and dropped agonisingly wide.
Boruc saved well from Walcott in the 34th minute, with Ozil once again the provider as the panic caused by the former Real Madrid man's set-pieces spread to Bournemouth's general play.
Stanislas replaced Pugh at the break and Gabriel was required back in his own penalty area to thwart King on the counter-attack.
Bournemouth looked to be growing in confidence before Ozil turned from provider to goalscorer with 63 minutes played.
The German glided infield from the right and picked out Olivier Giroud - the striker flicking a return pass impeccably into his path before Ozil's cool, side-footed finish left Boruc with no chance.
Walcott narrowly failed to slide home Hector Bellerin's cross before Boruc clumsily spilt a Giroud shot, with Bournemouth's task increasingly appearing to be one of damage limitation.
Giroud was off target from close range, Oxlade-Chamberlain saw a shot deflected against the post and King limped out of the action as Bouremouth closed 2015 three points above the relegation zone .
It is a standing they would no doubt be delighted to maintain until next May, when Ozil and Arsenal hope to be lifting silverware.