Much of the pre-match attention focused on Emmanuel Adebayor, who was the subject of huge
in the corresponding fixture last season and warmed up for the visit of his old club with a Europa League hat-trick against Lech Poznan in midweek.
As it happened, Adebayor was relegated to the substitutes bench - but that did little to take the spice out of proceedings and the opening stages were marked by a series of unsavoury challenges.
No sooner had City almost opened the scoring - Lukasz Fabianski reacting brilliantly to keep out David Silva's goalbound flick from a Carlos Tevez cross - than they went down to 10 men.
Fabregas sent Chamakh racing clear and Boyata was the last man back as he clattered into the Moroccan striker just outside the box. Replays suggested the Belgian failed to touch the ball.
Arsenal initially struggled to make their numerical advantage tell and Denilson's yellow card for a mistimed tackled on Tevez summed up their early rustiness.
City still 'one of the best' - Mancini
Boyata's dismissal saw Yaya Toure drop into defence but City were still enjoying the lion's share of possession and their formation - switching fluidly between 4-4-1, 4-2-2-1 and 4-2-3 - caused Arsenal plenty of problems.
However, the Gunners eventually settled into something resembling their usual rhythm and it paid dividends.
Shortly after an unmarked Johan Djourou nodded over from Bacary Sagna's cross, Nasri and Arshavin played a one-two on the right-hand side of the area and the Frenchman escaped the attentions of Gareth Barry to fire past Hart at the near post.
It was a goal of the highest order but Arsenal failed to kick on and Fabregas, Song and Djourou were all cautioned by referee Mark Clattenburg as they struggled to keep pace with the vibrant hosts.
Unfortunately for City, they were again undone by a mistimed tackle - Kompany felling Fabregas just inside the area with the Spaniard dribbling away from goal.
It was an unnecessary challenge from the Belgian but he was let off the hook when Hart dived to his left to claw away Fabregas's spot kick.
If Arsenal were struggling for momentum in the first half, that all changed after the break as they set up camp in opposition territory.
Wenger cites 'intelligent' approach
City boss Roberto Mancini replaced Toure with Wayne Bridge before Tevez was forced off with a muscular injury, and the disruption it caused played into Arsenal's hands.
The departure of Tevez resulted in the arrival of Adebayor - to deafening jeers from the away supporters - but the Togolese striker was starved of service and played a peripheral role.
Fabianski again needed to be at his best to deny Silva from a tight angle, but from then on it was all Arsenal and Song swept into the top corner following a period of sustained pressure.
Down to 10 men, losing 2-0 and without their inspirational captain - Tevez has scored seven of his team's 12 league goals this term - City looked a beaten team and their fans were soon heading for the exits.
Mario Balotelli made his welcome return from injury off the bench but his impact was negligible and Arsenal scored again when Bendtner, another substitute, was released by Nasri and applied a cool finish for his first goal of the season.
Eastlands was emptying out by the time City launched a late rally, Adebayor almost latching on to a Silva pass and Fabianski tipping Boateng's drive over the bar.
But Arsenal held on for a first clean sheet in 16 away games and only their second league victory on the road since March.
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