Match ends, Arsenal 3, Burnley 1.
Burnley manager Sean Dyche criticised the officials after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double ensured Arsenal maintained pressure on the top four and left the Clarets in the Premier League bottom three at Christmas.
Ashley Barnes responded for the visitors in a fiery contest that featured seven yellow cards, but Alex Iwobi's late goal sealed victory for the Gunners.
Dyche, whose side have now gone 61 Premier League games without a penalty, reeled off a list of decisions he felt went against his side.
"So many went against us. Ashley Barnes got an elbow in the face from an unnatural movement yet he comes out with a booking. Two dives again, but nobody got booked," he said.
"The biggest one for me, I think it's 60 games now without a penalty, there was a two-handed push on Kevin Long but the penalty wasn't given because he goes down naturally.
"Apart from that I was quite happy with the referee's performance."
Mesut Ozil - making a first start in six league matches - produced a sublime defence-splitting pass to Sead Kolasinac for Arsenal's opener, with the defender picking out Aubameyang for his 11th league goal of the season.
Remarkably, after 18 top-flight games, Arsenal led at the interval for the first time this season. It took them less than three second-half minutes to double the advantage, Aubameyang's powerful finish completing a quick counter-attack.
Burnley struck to their task, though, and Barnes brought them back into the contest on 63 minutes with a low finish after the home side failed to clear.
The home fans grew increasingly nervous as Burnley pushed for an equaliser but Iwobi scored from close range in stoppage time to ensure the Gunners moved level with fourth-placed Chelsea, who lost at home to Leicester.
Returning Ozil inspires Arsenal
After their impressive 22-game unbeaten run was ended by a revitalised Southampton last weekend, Arsenal exited the Carabao Cup to north London rivals Tottenham in midweek and needed to produce a response at Emirates Stadium - if only to keep in touch with the top four.
Unai Emery's side started accordingly. The Arsenal manager said this week that Ozil does have a future at the club, and the opening goal was all about the midfielder's genius.
The German demonstrated his value with a ball from the edge of the area that curled behind the Burnley defence, finding Kolasinac at the back post. His first-time flick found Aubameyang, who placed his shot into the bottom corner.
Arsenal's success so far this campaign has relied on strong second-half showings, and the tireless Kolasinac led an explosive counter-attack on 47 minutes which resulted in Aubameyang firing his second into the roof of Joe Hart's goal.
And Ozil was at the heart of Arsenal's third, drifting into the penalty area and committing a couple of defenders before his scuffed shot found its way to Iwobi. Replays suggested the substitute was marginally offside but the officials allowed the goal to stand.
It provided welcome relief for the Gunners after Burnley had threatened to snatch a point.
"It was a big performance and afterwards I spoke with him and said 'congratulations for your work'," Emery said of Ozil. "He showed his quality and we needed him to work to help us today and he did."
The Gunners have been forced to field a makeshift defence in recent games - leading Emery to admit he may use the January transfer window to strengthen his options - and there were often hints of that fragility before Barnes eventually took advantage of some half-hearted attempts to clear.
The hosts continued to struggle after the Clarets turned the contest into a bruising battle.
"It was a tough match. I think we won not because we played well but because every player had a very big commitment," added Emery.
"I think we can controlled the match like we wanted. We had to make an alteration to our gameplan but it gave us the victory."
Battling Burnley left empty-handed
The Clarets, despite their league position, have made steady progress in recent weeks towards getting back to the resilient displays that brought them success last season, and arrived at Arsenal knowing a point would be enough to rise out of the bottom three.
There was frequent evidence of the grit Dyche's side are capable of - and must continue to show - although Barnes was perhaps a little exuberant and lucky to stay on the pitch.
He was shown a yellow card after tangling with Sokratis Papastathopoulos, before escaping further punishment after an incident involving Matteo Guendouzi, where he appeared to try and kick the ball out of the Frenchman's grasp after a foul.
Despite being 2-0 down, they continued their disruptive approach and were rewarded when Barnes fired in at the back post.
Long had a strong shout for a penalty turned down - after he was shoved in the back - while Barnes looked certain to level from six yards out before referee Kevin Friend halted play for a foul.
Jack Cork sent a curling shot just wide from a tight angle but Iwobi's late strike ensured Burnley remain 18th with their worst top-flight return after 18 games since 1970-71.
"It wasn't a 3-1 game, I think all would agree with that. But the scoreline is the scoreline," said Dyche.
"We wanted to see if we could chase the game, physicality has to be part of the game - English fans certainly enjoy that part of the game but you have to do that in a a fair way. I think you'll find we're a fair outfit."
Man of the match - Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Arsenal finally lead at half-time - the stats
- Arsenal found themselves ahead in a Premier League game at half-time for the first time this campaign, last doing so against Huddersfield on the final day of last season.
- Courtesy of their 12 points, this is Burnley's worst top-flight campaign after 18 games since they accrued 10 at this stage in 1970/71 (with three points for a win) and were ultimately relegated.
- Arsenal have won their past 28 home league games against sides starting the day in the relegation zone since a 4-4 draw with Tottenham in October 2008.
- Dyche has lost all seven of his Premier League meetings with Arsenal, more defeats in the competition than he has suffered against any other side.
- Aubameyang has been directly involved in 19 goals in his 17 Premier League home games (14 goals, 5 assists). He has scored 22 goals in his 31 Premier League appearances for Arsenal, five more than any other player for the club after 31 games in the competition with Thierry Henry next on 17.
- Since 2014-15, Barnes is one of just five players to score in the Premier League against all of the 'big six' sides along with Sadio Mane, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jamie Vardy and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Burnley host Everton on Wednesday, 26 December (15:00 GMT), while Arsenal travel to Brighton later that day (17:15).
- 5PapastathopoulosBooked at 41mins
- 18MonrealSubstituted forLichtsteinerat 37'minutes
- 4ElnenySubstituted forTorreiraat 59'minutes
- 29GuendouziBooked at 59mins
- 9LacazetteSubstituted forIwobiat 78'minutes
- 26BardsleySubstituted forLowtonat 83'minutes
- 6MeeBooked at 60mins
- 18WestwoodBooked at 90mins
- 4CorkBooked at 60mins
- 10BarnesBooked at 36minsSubstituted forVokesat 77'minutes
- 11WoodBooked at 47minsSubstituted forVydraat 77'minutes
- Kevin Friend
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Arsenal 3, Burnley 1.
Lucas Torreira (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jeff Hendrick (Burnley).
Ashley Westwood (Burnley) is shown the yellow card.
Goal! Arsenal 3, Burnley 1. Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box to the centre of the goal.
Attempt blocked. Mesut Özil (Arsenal) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Alex Iwobi.
Foul by Sead Kolasinac (Arsenal).
James Tarkowski (Burnley) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, Burnley. Matthew Lowton tries a through ball, but Matej Vydra is caught offside.
Substitution, Burnley. Matthew Lowton replaces Phil Bardsley.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal) because of an injury.
Attempt missed. Charlie Taylor (Burnley) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the left following a set piece situation.
Foul by Lucas Torreira (Arsenal).
Ashley Westwood (Burnley) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Matej Vydra (Burnley).
Offside, Burnley. Sam Vokes tries a through ball, but Jeff Hendrick is caught offside.
Substitution, Arsenal. Alex Iwobi replaces Alexandre Lacazette.