A goal by Thierry Henry seven minutes from time kept alive Arsenal's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League via the Premiership on Saturday.
The French striker, who only came off the bench on the hour, stabbed home from close range to restore parity in the final North London derby ever to be played at Highbury.
Tottenham's 66th minute opener had been hotly disputed. Gilberto collided with Emmanuel Eboue in midfield and the Ivorian was left on the floor. Edgar Davids played on, advanced into the hole left by the prostrate defender and crossed low for Keane at the far post. The Irishman had the simplest of tasks to tuck home the ball at the far post. Arsenal protested but the goal stood.
The home side responded by rolling up their sleeves and began to dominate a game that appeared to be slipping away for much of the afternoon.
Henry's goal and David's dismissal immediately afterwards made for a finale fitting for the occasion but the result leaves Tottenham still with their noses ahead in the race for fourth place.
Arsenal will be a point behind if they win their game in hand but, after this afternoon, they must now hope for mistake by their near-neighbours if they are to finish fourth.
However it is worth remembering that Arsenal can still qualify by winning the Champions League itself and a similar result at Villarreal on Tuesday will put them through to the Final.
Before kick-off we knew Arsène Wenger would rotate his squad because of that Semi-Final second leg at Villarreal. It was only the angle of change that was in question. In the end the manager's choice of side was about as big an about-turn as anyone could have expected.
Freddie Ljungberg, Alex Hleb and Dennis Bergkamp were left out of the squad entirely. Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboue dropped to the bench. Those omissions made way for Robin van Persie, Jose Antonio Reyes, Emmanuel Adebayor, Abou Diaby and Johan Djourou to step up.
Highbury was heaving, the sun was shining and the atmosphere was cracking. The conditions were perfect for the 151st North London derby and arguably the most important since Arsenal won the League at White Hart Lane in 1971.
Tottenham had the greater spark and speed in the opening exchanges but they failed to test Jens Lehmann.
In fact the first chance fell to Arsenal. In the seventh minute Van Persie tucked pass inside Stalteri. Reyes managed to reach it and his dangerous cross was smuggled behind by the Tottenham defence.
The opportunity helped Arsenal wrestle control. But the home side was playing things patiently in midfield. European success had taught Arsene Wenger's side that protecting their clean sheet should be the No 1 priority.
In the 14th minute, Lee Young-Pyo floated a cross over from the left and Teemu Tainio guided a header towards the far post. Lehmann collected with ease.
A minute later Adebayor won a free-kick near the right-hand byline. Van Persie whipped it over and Gilberto emerged at the near post in front of Anthony Gardner to flick a header just wide of the far upright.
However Spurs are a dangerous attacking force this season and you expected a response. In the 18th minute, Aaron Lennon slipped past Senderos and fired low across the Arsenal area. It was a shot across the bows as well.
Taino guided another header into Lehmann's hands and, in the 24th minute, Jermain Defoe flicked a pass into the keeper's hands when he should have sent Davids clear.
A minute later the England striker spurned to best game of the chance so far. He chested down a clipped through ball from Carrick and Lehmann rushed out before reaching high to block his shot at point-blank range.
Tottenham were on top with Aaron Lennon causing real concern on the right flank.
Arsenal needed a pressure valve. Just before the half-hour the excellent, energetic Reyes provided it by racing up the left and feeding Van Persie on the edge of the area. The Dutchman's shot was low and hard but did not trouble Paul Robinson.
However Spurs maintained their control as half time approached. With 10 seconds of normal time left, they should have finally got their goal. Carrick picked up the ball on the left flank and ghosted past two Arsenal defender, then Lehmann. He now had an open goal but an ever decreasing angle. He hit the net when most of Highbury thought the England midfielder must score.
Wenger resisted the urge to make changes at the break. But he was forced into one nine minutes in. Senderos limped off so the manager brought on Eboue at right back and switched Djourou to centre back.
The new addition was quickly involved, sprinting up the right wing and setting up Van Persie to trickle a shot across the face of goal.
The Dutchman would nearly put Arsenal ahead in the 59th minute. Lehmann caught a corner and bowled the ball to Gilberto. The Brazilian sprayed a raking ball through for the striker who, despite protestations, was onside. His flick beat Robinson but bobbled agonisingly wide.
Two minutes later Van Persie made way for Henry and Diaby did likewise for Fabregas. It was Wenger's final gamble but he knew his side had to 'twist' rather than 'stick'.
He had not bargained on that opening goal from the visitors.
With 20 minutes left, Reyes brought a great save out of Robinson. Four minutes later, Fabregas had two efforts blocked by one of numerous bodies in a crowded area.
Hope was starting to run out when Adeabayor muscled his way past Stalteri on the left and found Henry in the area. The rest was just typical of the Arsenal captain, taking an angle route into the area and, in one movement, flicking the ball into the far corner.
Davids' dismissal a minute later further hampered the Arsenal cause.
The home side could not make their advantage count in the desperate dying minutes.
Referee: Steve Bennett
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