Substitute Yossi Benayoun heads dramatic late winner to earn priceless victory over 10-man hosts
Gunners get back on track following weekend loss against Manchester City thanks to Israeli's late header, Albrighton's Villa goal was Premier League's 20,000th strike
Marc Albrighton found the back of the net for Villa, scoring the Premier League's 20,000th goal in the process.
The Gunners took the lead through Van Persie’s spot kick after Ciaran Clark tugged back Theo Walcott in the area.
Villa equalised early in the second half through Albrighton before Benayoun's late winner.
Alex McLeish once again decided to leave Darren Bent out of the Villa starting line-up, further feeding rumours of a bust-up between the two.
Arsenal brought Emmanuel Frimpong into midfield in place of the suspended Alex Song and Francis Coquelin started at right-back as Arsene Wenger’s full-back shortage continues.
The home side started the game brightly and nearly opened the scoring within five minutes, with Agbonlahor’s bullet header forcing a magnificent reaction save out of Szczesny.
The Polish keeper was once again worked by Agbonlahor, getting to the England striker’s cross with Stephen Ireland lurking dangerously.
Arsenal had endured a tough start but were given the perfect chance to take the lead after 15 minutes, as Walcott turned brilliantly in the box but was tugged back by Clark, despite the England winger trying to stay on his feet and referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot.
Van Persie stepped up to lash the ball high into the net, equalling Thierry Henry’s record for 34 Premier League goals scored in a calendar year.
The Dutchman nearly provided an instant second as he played Walcott through who could only hit Guzan with an attempted chip as the American came rushing off his line.
Big Ben strikes | Benayoun grabbed a late winner to secure all three points
Villa were looking to work their way back into the game, Petrov forcing Szczesny to save a 30-yard effort and Albrighton’s cross worrying the Arsenal backline with Ireland again close.
The Gunners’ slick passing was dangerous on the break though and good work from Van Persie sent Ramsey bursting through midfield but the Welshman rushed his shot from the edge of the area with Walcott well placed in the right channel.
With half-time looming, N’Zogbia set off on a run, beating Coquelin before being tripped by Mertesacker who was booked.
Before the free-kick was taken Ireland was brought off in place of Barry Bannan due to a calf injury, and the young Scotsman took the set-piece and was a whisker away from netting with his first-touch, just sending the ball over the bar.
Villa went in behind at the break but had perhaps had the best of the first-half play.
The second half started in a similar vein with Villa looking to dominate Arsenal’s patchy defence and the Gunners looking to Walcott and Gervinho’s pace on the counter.
And the Villans pressure finally told after 10 second half minutes, Guzan’s long ball could only find Vermaelen but his header to Mertesacker was short and Albrighton stole in, rounding the German and slotting past Szczesny at the Holte End to score a landmark goal.
The Gunners almost re-took the lead immediately, van Persie’s corner falling to Mertesacker who hit a half-volley which was clawed away by Guzan.
The game had opened up but a lack of cutting edge at both ends was costing both sides dearly, Arsenal sent Tomas Rosicky on in place of Frimpong in an attempt to wrestle the initiative back.
Van Persie was looking the Gunners' most likely source of a goal when on the ball and he set off on a twisting run towards the box going past Dunne before falling under Stephen Warnock's challenge in the box.
The referee decided that Van Persie was already on his way to ground when contact was made however, and the Arsenal captain was booked for simulation.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, both sides looked to push on for a potential winner, Arsenal bringing on Yossi Benayoun and Andrey Arshavin for Gervinho and Ramsey and the russian went close with a deflected effort which left Guzan stranded.
And the Gunners took the lead from the resulting corner, with Wenger's other sub, Benayoun nodding home in the six-yard box to score his first Arsenal goal.
Villa brought young striker Nathan Delfouneso on for Marc Albrighton as they searched for a second equaliser but they were unable to find a goal and things got worse for Villa as Alan Hutton picked up two late yellow cards and will now be suspended for their boxing day trip to Stoke City.