Sunderland produced a solid display in their penultimate outing of the 2016-17 campaign, but they were unable to avoid defeat as Alexis Sanchez bailed out Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners made a bright start to the game but they were unable to find a way past the sensational Jordan Pickford, who made several brilliant saves to keep Arsene Wenger’s side at bay.
And missed opportunities did little to lift the subdued home support, with David Moyes’ men taking full advantage as Didier Ndong and Jermain Defoe tested Petr Cech.
Following the restart the stopper was forced to handle a goalbound back pass by Nacho Monreal, but as the hour mark passed the Gunners regrouped and Sanchez took centre stage.
Their opener came with 17 minutes remaining as the Black Cats failed to pick up Mesut Ozil who fed the Chilean for a simple finish, and he added a killer second shortly after despite further heroics from Pickford.
Moyes was forced into changes ahead of the game as Jason Denayer and Victor Anichebe missed out due to injury, but it yielded a welcome return for January recruit Bryan Oviedo and midfielder Lee Cattermole.
A breezy evening in North London soon turned into a stormy encounter as Arsenal raced out of the blocks and laid siege to the Sunderland backline.
Sanchez, who passed a late fitness test, saw his effort deflect beyond Pickford and into the net early on, but the crucial touch was from Olivier Giroud and the effort was ruled out for offside.
The Chilean continued to orchestrate the play and torment the Black Cats defence, with slick one-touch passing bamboozling the visitors who relied on Pickford brilliance to deny Giroud.
Aaron Ramsey was next to break free as the Gunners continued to cut through Sunderland’s defence like hot butter, but the returning Oviedo was next to throw his body on the line as the Welshman’s effort cannoned behind.
The bombardment continued with Sanchez lashing an effort wide before a Pickford sidewinder threatened to unleash Defoe and forced Hector Bellerin into a cynical handball.
But from the resulting free-kick the England man slipped at the vital moment as the ball broke free, however, it set the tone for an intriguing end to the opening period as the Black Cats threw off their shackles and went in search of an opener.
Ndong, who like Defoe lost his footing during the opening stages, was first to test Cech who pulled off a routine save at his near post following a blistering counter.
And two minutes later the former Chelsea stopper was forced into action once more, as the Black Cats’ 15-goal top scorer crashed a testing effort across the face of goal.
Sunderland continued to push forward and express themselves in the second period and they almost took the lead through a bizarre sequence of events.
With 48 minutes played, a sensational back pass from Monreal caught Cech off-guard and the ‘keeper was forced to dash across and sweep the ball to safety.
An in-direct free-kick followed from inside the six-yard box, but the home side escaped as Larsson’s dinked free-kick was headed over the crossbar by Rob Holding.
Wenger’s side responded as Ramsey forced Pickford into a comfortable stop before Sanchez smashed a free-kick against the wall, but as the rain began to fall the Gunners started to rise.
Pickford was once again at his very best to deny substitute Danny Welbeck after Giroud glanced a header wide, but with 73 minutes played Sunderland’s resistance was broken.
After defending superbly throughout the game, Borini failed to track Ozil’s run towards the back post and he played a simple ball across goal to Sanchez who couldn’t miss.
And the striker showed his goalscoring prowess once more with 10 minutes remaining, as Pickford’s fine save to thwart Giroud fell into his path for another easy finish.
Arsenal: Cech, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Bellerin, Ramsey (Welbeck 69), Xhaka, Gibbs (Iwobi 69), Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud (Walcott 85).
Subs not used: Gabriel, Ospina, Coquelin, Elneny.
Sunderland: Pickford, Jones, Oviedo, Manquillo (Januzaj 82), O’Shea, Kone, Cattermole (Gooch 77), Ndong (Gibson 88), Larsson, Borini, Defoe.
Subs: Rodwell, Lescott, Love, Mannone.