We spurned the chance to move into third place after costly mistakes led to a rare home defeat to Crystal Palace.
In truth we were chasing the game all afternoon. Palace took the lead in the opening 20 minutes, and it was a goal they deserved for their bright start. Luka Milivojevic whipped in a dangerous free-kick and Christian Benteke was all alone in the area to plant a header past Bernd Leno.
We toiled to find a breakthrough after that, with the Eagles’ defence looking very solid, and frustrating our attacking efforts.
Alexandre Lacazette and Dinos Mavropanos both tried speculative efforts, but Vicente Guaita was barely troubled in the first 45 minutes.
Once again Unai Emery opted to make changes at half-time in an attempt to turn our fortunes around. Alex Iwobi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were both introduced and our energy levels were drastically improved in the second half.
Soon afterwards we were level thanks to a superb trademark bounced finish at the near post from Mesut Ozil.
But we were unable to capitalise, and were behind again soon afterwards. A lapse of concentration from Shkodran Mustafi allowed Wilfried Zaha to dart around him into the area and stroke home.
After a bright start to the half we looked ragged once again, and fell further behind. We failed to clear a corner from Milivojevic, leaving James McArthur with the simple task of heading home from close range.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took matters into his own hands to reduce the arrears, finding the bottom corner after a driving run forward, when the ball deflected back to him on the edge of the area.
There were still 15 minutes to find an equaliser, and should have scored it late on, only for Iwobi to shoot tamely at Guaita from a good position. It was a suitably frustrating end to the afternoon.
HOW IT HAPPENED
There were a few surprise selections in Emery's starting XI, he made seven changes in all to the side that won in Naples on Thursday. Only Laurent Koscielny, Sead Kolasinac and front two of Aubameyang and Lacazette kept their places.
There were rare starts for Carl Jenkinson, Mavropanos and Mohamed Elneny, while Ozil returned to the starting line-up.
WHAT IT MEANS
We now face back-to-back away games in the Premier League this week. First we travel to Wolves on Wednesday night for a 7.45pm kick off, then make the trip to Leicester City next Sunday afternoon. Our top-four prospects could look a lot clearer this time next week.
There are now four games remaining in the Premier League season and the race for Champions League qualification is heating up.
Here are the remaining Premier League fixtures for the sides in the hunt for the top four places:
April 24 – Wolves (A)
April 28 – Leicester City (A)
May 5 – Brighton & HA (H)
May 12 – Burnley (A)
April 22 – Burnley (H)
April 28 – Manchester United (A)
May 5 – Watford (H)
May 12 – Leicester City (A)
April 24 – Manchester City (H)
April 28 – Chelsea (H)
May 5 – Huddersfield Town (A)
May 12 – Cardiff City (H)
April 23 – Brighton & HA (H)
April 27 – West Ham United (H)
May 4 – Bournemouth (A)
May 12 – Everton (H)
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