Arsenal lost ground in the title race - if not an undefeated Premiership record that now stretches back 22 matches to May - as Francis Jeffers came on to create a late equaliser for Everton against the club he is due to rejoin in the summer after a season-long loan.
Nwankwo Kanu's deftly taken first-half goal, his first in the League this season, looked likely to be enough for a below-par Arsenal. But with 14 minutes left, Nigel Martyn's long kick found Ashley Cole miscuing a routine clearance. Jeffers' shot was parried away by Jens Lehmann but only to Tomasz Radzinski, who slid in his sixth goal of the campaign from a difficult angle.
Radzinski has a remarkable record against Arsenal, having scored on all four occasions he has faced them. The Canadian's riposte was just reward for Everton, who refused to be cowed by their opponents' aura of invincibility and kept plugging away even after an astonishing, deflating miss by Wayne Rooney shortly before half-time.
Arsène Wenger argued that Arsenal played better and lost at Everton last season, when a 16-year-old urchin called Rooney announced his arrival by ending their 30-match unbeaten Premiership run with a stupendous last-minute goal. "It was a difficult game," the Arsenal manager said. "They decided to fight for every ball. We didn't show our usual ability to keep the ball and I always felt edgy and nervous."
David Moyes, the Everton manager, appreciated the irony of Jeffers' involvement in his team's goal but pointed out that Arsenal never stipulated that he should not play against them. His introduction meant there were four home strikers in the closing stages, a bold approach that reaped a dramatic dividend.
"Our players weren't afraid of them like some teams," Moyes added. "Arsenal got a typically well worked goal but while you don't often dominate them, I thought we let them know they were in a game. I'm sure he [Jeffers] will have savoured the moment because he has been desperate to get on the field."
Rooney, like Jeffers last night, had come off the bench when he scored his legendary goal and was expected to do likewise here after struggling to shake off a thigh injury. Instead, he lined up as the left-sided member of a three-pronged attack and his mere presence appeared to panic Pascal Cygan into sending an over-hit backpass midway through the first half.
Lehmann, possibly still smarting from the goal he gifted to Mark Viduka in the FA Cup at Leeds, was slow to react and could not stop the ball from going for a corner. Then he allowed Lee Carsley's kick to reach the far post, where the ball struck Kevin Kilbane in the midriff. The lack of power enabled Cole to clear off the line.
Little had been seen of Arsenal as an attacking force, and Wenger was forced to withdraw the injured Kolo Touré. Kanu had drilled a long-range shot straight at Martyn as early as the second minute, yet the the 6ft 7in Nigerian was largely anonymous until Arsenal broke out to seize the initiative after 29 minutes.
Freddie Ljungberg, in the inside-left channel, threaded a slide-rule pass through to Kanu, who nonchalantly angled the ball beyond Martyn for his first League goal in 17 months.
Everton should have drawn level after 37 minutes when Kilbane's cross found Rooney charging in to meet a free header. But the player who beat David Seaman from 25 yards on Arsenal's previous visit directed the ball wide from four yards.
A twice-taken free-kick, which was moved forward after Ljungberg broke prematurely from the wall, saw Rooney take aim in the 55th minute as fireworks lit up the sky over Stanley Park. His shot, while combustible enough, was fisted away by Lehmann. When the keeper elected to beat aside Jeffers' drive, there was no such respite for Arsenal.
Everton (4-3-3): Martyn 6; Hibbert 5, Stubbs 6, Unsworth 6, Naysmith 6; Carsley 5, Li Tie 3 (Linderoth 4, h-t), Kilbane 6 (Jeffers 6, 69); Radzinski 4 (Cambell, 88), Ferguson 4, Rooney 3. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Yobo.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann 5; Touré 5 (Lauren 6, 20), Campbell 7, Cygan 6, Cole 6; Ljungberg 7 (Gilberto Silva, 88), Parlour 5, Vieira 6, Pires 5; Henry 5, Kanu 6 (Edu, 81). Substitutes not used: Shaaban (gk), Aliadière.
Referee: A Wiley (Burntwood, Staffs) 6.Reuse content