By Isaac Moore at Meadow Park

SUMMARY

Arsenal Under-21s produced arguably their best performance of the season to beat Patrick Vieira's Manchester City in a thrilling game at Meadow Park.

First-half goals from Spanish duo Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin set the Gunners on their way before Adam Drury bought City back into it with a goal in the opening moments of the second half.

Stefan O'Connor restored Arsenal's two-goal lead with 17 minutes remaining but Devante Cole set up a nervy finish for the Gunners before Toral completed his brace in stoppage time.

Amazingly, City scored again in the dying seconds through a Semi Ajayi own goal but it wasn't enough to spoil a great night for Steve Gatting's men.

This was a welcome victory for the young Gunners. Their displays in recent weeks had merited more but a lack of ruthlessness in the final third saw them come into this game on the back of three defeats.

SETTING THE SCENE

With Thursday's FA Youth Cup semi-final first leg in mind, Gatting opted to rest the likes of Chuba Akpom, Leander Siemann, Gedion Zelalem and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill.

Alfred Mugabo, O'Connor, Zak Ansah and Jack Jebb were the four changes made from the defeat to Everton.

Man City, coached by Arsenal legend Vieira, came into this game with a top-four finish well within their grasp. A win for the visitors would leave them just two points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.

FIRST HALF

Conditions were tricky on a wet and blustery evening in Hertfordshire and it was Arsenal who made the livelier start. Toral went on a weaving run before seeing his effort pushed away by Ian Lawlor in the seventh minute.

City weathered a strong opening 10 minutes from the Gunners and started to assert themselves in Arsenal's final third.

In the 17th minute, Seko Fofana warmed the palms of Macey with a rasping drive from 25 yards before Sinan Bytyqi forced the Arsenal stopper to tip behind a free-kick.

Arsenal maintained a high-pressing game throughout the first half and, in the 33rd minute, their energy was rewarded. Thomas Eisfeld latched onto a loose pass from Jose Tasende and looked destined to score but was tackled by a City defender. The ball fell to Toral and the Spaniard made no mistake with a simple finish.

The momentum was all with the Gunners now and their lead was doubled four minutes later. It was Bellerin who this time capitalised on lacklustre City defending. The full back nipped in ahead of Tasende and slotted under Lawlor from six yards.

SECOND HALF

City immediately set about reducing the deficit and it didn't take them long. Macey could only punch Bytyqi's deep cross into Drury's path and the right back slammed past the Arsenal goalkeeper, who was caught out of position.

Olsson then missed a glorious chance to restore Arsenal's two-goal cushion when he miscued Ansah's low cross.

Not for the first time this season, the Gunners had Macey to thank for keeping them ahead.

In the 56th minute O'Connor allowed a long ball to bounce over him, Marcos Lopes was quickest to the ball and his low cross found substitute Cole just six yards out. Macey somehow kept out his effort - it was surely his best save in an Arsenal jersey.

Eisfeld leathered a shot over and Olsson drove wide as Arsenal continued their search for a third.

And in the 73rd minute, Arsenal put the game just about beyond City. The visitors pushed out after clearing an Olsson corner but O'Connor gambled and managed to stay onside from Ajayi's flick on. The defender calmly slotted home after his initial effort was saved by Lawlor.

Arsenal looked to be cruising to victory until a crazy final five minutes.

First Cole slammed in from Bytyqi's low cross to set up a grandstand finish, with four minutes of added time. Toral then danced past three City defenders and fired past Lawlor to make it 4-2 before Ajayi glanced  into his own net from a corner in the third minute of stoppage time.

But Arsenal held out to secure a fine win.

Arsenal U21

1
Macey
2
Hayden 52 Yellow Card
3
Bellerin Goal!
4
Ajayi
5
Mugabo
6
O'Connor Goal!
7
Toral Goal! Goal!
8
Olsson
9
Jebb
10
Eisfeld
11
Ansah 76

Substitutes

12
Vickers
13
Siemann
14
Maitland-Niles 76
15
Kamara 52
16
Lipman

Man City U21

1
Lawlor
2
Jose Tasende 79
3
Facey
4
Drury Goal!
5
Denayer
6
Glendon 46 Yellow Card
7
Lopes
8
Fofana
9
Jordy Mayifuila
10
Ntcham
11
Bytyqi

Substitutes

12
Billy O'Brien
13
Plummer
14
Leigh 79
15
Bossaerts
16
Cole 46 Goal!
Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 7 Apr 2014