Goals from Van der Vaart and Bale helped turn the derby on its head
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at the Emirates Stadium
Tottenham staged a stunning comeback to win at Arsenal for the first time in 17 years and wreck the Gunners' hopes of going top of the Premier League.
Arsenal were on course to leapfrog Chelsea, if only briefly, as they cruised into a two-goal lead at the interval courtesy of goals from Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh.
Spurs, after being comprehensively outplayed, then embarked on an unlikely revival that not only saw them wipe out Arsenal's comfortable advantage but go on to take all three points.
Gareth Bale started the recovery with a fine finish five minutes after the break, before Rafael van der Vaart levelled from the spot after Cesc Fabregas inexplicably handled his free-kick.
And with only five minutes left Younes Kaboul reduced the vast majority of The Emirates gallery to silence when he headed Van der Vaart's free-kick low past Lukasz Fabianski.
It was a win that looked light years away after 45 minutes, and while Spurs deserve huge credit for showing such reserves of character, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will be disgusted at how his side collapsed in defence to once more cast a shadow over their title pretentions.
Redknapp delights as 'gamble' pays-off
Fabregas was outstanding as the home side assumed control, but Luka Modric performed similar heroics for Spurs, helped by Van der Vaart, as this north London derby entered its decisive phase.
And when referee Phil Dowd blew his final whistle, the Spurs fans exploded in ecstasy while Arsenal's followers turned their fury on their team.
The game started in acrimony when Nasri refused to shake hands with his former Gunners team-mate William Gallas, but it was the latter who had the last laugh after the dramatic finale.
Nasri's anticipated confrontation with Gallas sparked into life only seconds after their non-handshake as the pair collided in a tussle that left the Arsenal midfield man nursing an accidental blow to his face.
The pain subsided for Nasri when he put the Gunners ahead after nine minutes with a goal that was mixture of brilliance from the France international and defensive frailty from Spurs.
Fabregas released Nasri through the centre with trademark precision, and even though his first touch was poor, he showed more bravery than hesitant Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes as he won the battle for possession and scored from the tightest of angles.
It was a nightmare moment for Gomes, who saw his lack of commitment in coming out to challenge for the ball from the slighter figure of Nasri heavily punished.
Fabregas was dictating events in imperious fashion from midfield, and he inevitably played a part as Arsenal doubled their lead after 27 minutes. He spread the play to Andrey Arshavin, and Chamakh reacted more quickly than Kaboul to the Russian's cross to turn a close-range finish past Gomes.
It was no more than Arsenal deserved for their domination against a Spurs side who up to that staged had looked overawed in their quest to end that barren Premier League run against their arch-rivals.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, as he had to do, made a change at the interval when he sent on Jermain Defoe for Aaron Lennon - and he was involved as Spurs gave themselves a lifeline five minutes after the break.
Defoe won an aerial battle to find Van der Vaart, and Bale showed great touch and technique to control the Netherlands star's pass in his stride and glide a finish past the outstretched hand of Fabianski.
Spurs took heart from the goal and were level after 67 minutes in bizarre circumstances. Fabregas inexplicably chose to raise his arm head high to block Van der Vaart's free-kick, an offence easily spotted by referee Dowd and just about everyone else inside The Emirates.
Van der Vaart slotted home the penalty, prompting an instant response from Wenger as he replaced Chamakh with Robin van Persie.
After a series of substitutions when Peter Crouch replaced Roman Pavlyuchenko and Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky came on for Nasri and Arshavin, Fabregas almost made amends for his earlier aberration with a curling effort that brought a fine save from Gomes.
Defeat by Spurs 'painful' for Wenger
And as Arsenal regained some composure, Laurent Koscielny wasted a perfect opportunity to restore their lead when he headed Van Persie's cross wastefully off target.
It was Spurs, however, who completed a quite astonishing comeback four minutes from time when Kaboul's glancing header took Van der Vaart's free-kick out of Fabianski's reach.
Arsenal, stunned, had no response to offer as Wenger was left to sift through the wreckage of this damaging defeat.
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