But Manuel Almunia saved Alessandro Diamanti's penalty and Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas made it 2-0 with nine minutes left from the same spot following a handball by Matthew Upson.
Tottenham boosted their chances of playing Champions League football next season, moving four points clear in the chase for fourth place in the Premier League with a 2-1 win at Stoke.
Substitute Eidur Gudjohnsen put Spurs ahead just 18 seconds into the second half when he nipped onto the end of a delightful chip from Peter Crouch to fire a left-foot shot into the roof of the net.
And things got worse for the home side four minutes later when Dean Whitehead was sent off for his second bookable offence after clattering Luka Modric in the centre circle.
But Stoke City drew level when Benoit Assou-Ekotto was adjudged to have fouled Dave Kitson in the box and Matthew Etherington sent Heurelho Gomes the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Assou-Ekotto redeemed himself, though, when he crossed for Niko Kranjcar to net the winner for Spurs with 13 minutes remaining.
Aston Villa drew 2-2 with Wolves and it could have been even worse for Martin O'Neill's men.
John Carew salvaged a point for Villa after Wolves had looked set for their first win over their local rivals for 30 years, Jody Craddock's equaliser and James Milner's own goal putting them in front.
But Carew followed up his opener with his 13th goal of the campaign with only seven minutes remaining to make the final score 2-2, benefiting on each occasion from marginal offside decisions.
English Premier League Top Eight Standings
Team Pl GD Pts 1 Arsenal 31 +40 67 2 Man Utd 30 +46 66 3 Chelsea 29 +42 64 4 Tottenham 30 +26 55 5 Liverpool 30 +19 51 6 Man City 28 +17 50 7 Aston Villa 29 +17 50 8 Everton 30 +6 45