Laurent Koscielny struck with eight minutes remaining as Manchester City and Arsenal drew 1-1 at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League.
Arsenal impressed for much of the first half, but Joleon Lescott’s header turned the game the way of the hosts, and gave them the advantage at half time.
City had chances to put the game beyond the match in the sort of encounter Arsenal have often lost in recent seasons, but the Gunners held on and found their equaliser through Koscielny’s clinical shot following a corner late on.
Both sides preserve their unbeaten starts to the season, with identical records of two wins and three draws, but Arsenal remain in front of City in fifth place by virtue of goal difference.
Koscielny, not a first choice this season for the Gunners, only started the match because Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen had been laid low by flu in the build-up to the match.
City, meanwhile, left both Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli on the substitutes’ bench, with Roberto Mancini pairing Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko up front.
Arsenal made a very solid start, passing the ball around with confidence and class, even if chances were thin on the ground.
The first real test for either goalkeeper came when Aguero fired a snap shot from the edge of the area – Vito Mannone, standing in for the injured Wojciech Szczesny, could only parry it.
Two minutes later Gervinho had the first of several chances for the Gunners, played through by a weighted pass from Aaron Ramsey, only for a clunky touch to deny him so much as a shot on goal.
Lukas Podolski should also have done better when Carl Jenkinson robbed Lescott on the wing, drove to the byline and cut back, only for the German to sky his shot.
Santi Cazorla also did a great job playing Gervinho in, as did Ramsey once more, but the Ivorian got no closer than the side netting.
And Manchester City, who came into the match on the back of a 31-match unbeaten streak at home, took their chance when they got upfield.
Mannone came out to gather David Silva’s corner with no conviction, and nobody was able to prevent Lescott nodding firmly in at the far post.
The lead could have doubled moments later after Dzeko’s first-time shot from range, but this time Mannone managed a crucial fingertip save.
In the second half, the defending Premier League champions looked set to flex their muscles, with Aguero close from a tight angle, then seeing a shout for a penalty turned down with Koscielny beaten.
Gervinho, who got into excellent spaces time and again, continued to spurn half-chances and clear-cut ones alike, flashing wide at the near post with 24 minutes remaining.
But Arsenal did not give up on the game, and Arsene Wenger’s double-change, bringing on Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott for Abu Diaby and Podolski, kept the momentum up.
It might have cost them when City broke with Yaya Toure charging down the middle with 10 minutes remaining, but he held on to the ball a fraction too long and left Aguero to snatch at his shot.
And after Cazorla had tested Hart at the other end with a powerful shot from range, Koscielny was on hand to drill in an equaliser from the resulting corner.
At 1-1 both sides had opportunities to win. Aguero spurned the clearest one after Vincent Kompany had seen a spectacular overhead kick parried by Mannone, firing wide of the far post.
Then, as the game entered stoppage time, Gervinho compounded a frustrating afternoon by blazing through the middle with panache, only to splash the ball high and wide with panic.
Both sides are four points off the league leaders Chelsea in the title race, but it is the visitors who will probably be happier with the character they showed to take something from the match.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Santi Cazorla (Arsenal) – Even when the Gunners were behind, the accuracy and variety of Cazorla’s passing made him the stand-out player on the pitch.
MANCHESTER CITY: Hart 6, Zabaleta 7, Kompany 7, Lescott 7, Clichy 7, Toure 6, Silva 6, Javi Garcia 6, Sinclair 7, Aguero 6, Dzeko 6 – Subs – Tevez 7, Balotelli N/A, Rodwell 6
ARSENAL: Mannone 6, Jenkinson 7, Mertesacker 7, Koscielny 7, Gibbs 6, Diaby 6, Arteta 7, Gervinho 5, Cazorla 8, Ramsey 7, Podolski 7 – Subs – Walcott 6, Giroud 6, Coquelin N/A