Sol Campbell showed his misfiring strikers the way forward as he provided the inspiration for a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough with his first goal of the season to protect Arsenal's position at the top of the table.
It may have been removed from the sparkling, free-flowing football which earlier this season saw the Gunners set records with a regularity that Sergei Bubka would be proud of.
However, when Arsene Wenger looks down from the top of the Christmas Day tree for the first time since the Premiership began, that will be of little worry to him.
Boro keeper Mark Schwarzer may have pulled off a handful of top-class saves as Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord and Robert Pires all squandered clear openings at Highbury.
But after a run of three games without a win, including just one goal - and that from the penalty-spot - Campbell's diving header on the stroke of half-time was a much-needed tonic.
And it was not until the final minute that Pires rounded off victory against a Boro side already reduced to 10 men.
Steve McClaren will therefore have rather more worries on his mind as he contemplates a Boxing Day meeting with Manchester United.
His side have now not scored in five consecutive away league defeats, while George Boateng faces tests on a potentially serious knee ligament injury.
And just to make matters worse, midfielder Luke Wilkshire was harshly sent off at Highbury for two cautionable offences on his full Premiership debut.
Wilkshire had replaced out-of-form Massimo Maccarone, while Arsenal - already without Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp - were handed a late blow when Ray Parlour aggravated a calf injury during the warm-up.
He was replaced by Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who not only sent an early drive just wide but also curled a free-kick which Wiltord controlled before blasting his shot over the top from close-range.
Indeed, Wiltord, who was replacing Bergkamp - even though Pires actually filled the Dutchman's position - was struggling to make any positive impression on the game.
Not that his team-mates' finishing was much better, with Henry also off-target, while Boro increasingly started to come into the game.
Szilard Nemeth, whose last encounter with David Seaman was scoring against him for Slovakia, gave Jonathan Greening a brief sight of goal, only for Campbell to bundle the ball behind.
Otherwise, the Boro strikeforce of Nemeth and Alen Boksic found their openings restricted.
Then again, while Campbell was leading by example, so too were Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu at the centre of Boro's accomplished back-four.
The visitors were forced into a reshuffle on 24 minutes when Boateng was stretchered off in some pain and was replaced by Joseph-Desire Job.
With Campbell, Martin Keown and Fredrik Ljungberg all spurning half-chances, Boro still looked to have held on until the break.
However, that was reckoning without Campbell's intervention in first-half injury-time as he dived full-length to power home a superb header from van Bronckhorst's incisive free-kick
Boro were at least helped by an astonishing miss by Henry just after the restart when, in attempting to switch feet at the last minute, he completely mis-kicked Wiltord's cross right in front of goal.
But their uphill task was magnified on 73 minutes when Wilkshire forlornly trooped off after being dismissed following his second booking.
While the energetic midfielder's two fouls - on van Bronckhorst and then Pires - just about deserved cautions, a final warning would surely have been a more common-sense decision.
It was not to be and, despite the arrival of defender Tony Vidmar, Arsenal simply increased their pressure.
Amid a deluge of corners, Wiltord's drive was superbly tipped around the post by Schwarzer, Pires struck the side-netting and Lauren's half-volley was pushed over.
Henry was also a picture of disbelief as his excellent volley on the turn was tipped onto the post and rebounded across the face of goal to safety.
However, Pires finally confirmed victory in the last minute as he found a way past Schwarzer with a superbly-guided shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren bemoaned his side's fate at Highbury as
George Boateng was left facing a spell on the sidelines and Luke Wilkshire was
sent off in his first Premiership start.
Arsenal maintained their position at the top of the table as Sol Campbell's
diving header and Robert Pires' late strike gave them a 2-0 victory.
Boro were left to reflect on a fifth consecutive away league defeat without
having scored a goal and Boateng was carried off with a knee injury that will at
least rule him out of the Boxing Day game against Manchester United.
McClaren revealed: 'He's been feeling a niggling knee for a couple of weeks.
We'll know the full extent in the next 24 hours but it didn't look too good.'
The Boro boss was also unhappy at Wilkshire's 73rd-minute dismissal by referee
Steve Dunn after his second booking offence for a foul on Pires.
'I thought he was over-fussy in some of the bookings he gave and I think he
reacted to the crowd, the player and everybody around him,' said McClaren.
'I thought he was a bit too impetuous and could have defused the situation.
That put us down to 10 men and it was very difficult from then on.
'I didn't think there was a bad tackle in the game. It's a high-tempo
McClaren could not fault his players' attitude, although his view of the game
was rather flattering to a team that had patently few attempts on goal.
'I thought we started well and looked solid, frustrated them, broke well,
played good football and then obviously when you lose a player like George
Boateng, it's bound to affect you,' he said.
'We had to reshuffle and needed to go in goalless at half-time. So we
got punished for that. But even in the second-half, we took the game to Arsenal
and were bold.'
In reality, Arsenal dominated throughout and should have extended their lead
after Campbell's diving header, with Thierry Henry missing one gilt-edged chance
and keeper Mark Schwarzer making several important saves.
Wenger praised Campbell after he had scored his side's first goal from open
play in four games.
The Arsenal boss declared: 'Sol had a very good game, he was winning every
fight, winning decisive balls and I loved his goal as it just showed such great
'When a guy of his size and power is on the move, he's unstoppable. I enjoyed
it more than any other goal, as I don't see many goals from my team!'
Wenger added: 'Middlesbrough came here to disturb our game and close us down,
they did that in the first-half but the goal came out at the right time for us.
'I was a bit on the edge as you never know at 1-0 but we always looked
asthough we would win the game. I was very pleased with the attitude of the team
and their concentration.'