Arsenal 3 Stoke City 0: Aubameyang to the rescue as Gunners leave it late
A Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brace and an Alexandre Lacazette penalty all in the final 15 minutes saw Arsenal ultimately cruise to a 3-0 home win over struggling Stoke City on Sunday.
Arsene Wenger's men were frustrated by their relegation-threatened visitors for much of the contest, but were gifted two penalties in the closing stages to help them over the line, in a result that eases some of the heat on their manager.
Chances were few and far between in a turgid first half at the Emirates Stadium, as Xherdan Shaqiri went close early on, before Aaron Ramsey clipped the top of the crossbar in the only two clear-cut opportunities.
Lacazette, appearing for the first time since mid-February due to injury, was introduced from the bench soon after the hour and made himself a nuisance, but Aubameyang was the one to get things moving as the hosts improved in a productive second-half showing.
The Gabon international coolly swept home a penalty 15 minutes from the end after Mesut Ozil was fouled by Bruno Martins Indi, before doubling his tally soon after with a well-taken volley, making it five goals in his first six Premier League games.
Lacazette then wrapped things up a minute from time with the Gunners' second spot-kick, scoring for the first time in the Premier League since early December and ensuring Stoke remain three points adrift of safety.
Arsenal were given an early warning of the threat Stoke can possess when Shaqiri is involved, as the Switzerland international saw a fine 20-yard curling effort go just wide of the top-left corner.
The home side did not look remotely dangerous until the 22nd minute, when Ramsey pounced on a loose bouncing ball in the area and saw his effort hit the top of the crossbar, though Jack Butland in the Stoke goal appeared to have it covered.
Arsenal increased the tempo upon the restart and a clear chance was eventually crafted by the hosts just before the hour - Mohamed Elneny meeting Hector Bellerin's cut-back 12 yards out and seeing his effort crucially blocked, Nacho Monreal then forcing a decent stop from Butland with the rebound.
The ineffective Danny Welbeck was withdrawn soon after for Lacazette, returning after six weeks out with a knee problem, but Stoke were the next to go close - Shaqiri's in-swinging corner causing havoc and coming back off the far post.
And Arsenal capitalised on that let-off in the 75th minute, as Ozil wriggled his way into the area through a crowd of Stoke players and appeared to be tripped by Martins Indi, allowing Aubameyang to convert from 12 yards.
Aubameyang then put the game beyond Stoke 11 minutes later, producing a lovely volley from just inside the area to find the bottom-right corner.
The ex-Borussia Dortmund star then passed up the chance for complete a hat-trick, allowing Lacazette to take the second penalty after the Frenchman had been shoved over by Badou Ndiaye, the striker taking his top-flight tally to 10 as the Gunners celebrated a fourth straight win in all competitions.