Theo Walcott struck three times as Arsenal beat Newcastle 7-3 in a chaotic and exciting Premier League clash at the Emirates.
There were few signs of the drama ahead as the two sides went into the interval locked at 1-1, Walcott’s strike cancelled out by Demba Ba’s free-kick.
Twice more in the second half the Gunners went in front, and twice more the Magpies roared back to level.
Walcott put Arsenal ahead at 4-3, before an Olivier Giroud brace called off any further resistance in the final minutes, and Walcott danced through from a narrow angle to seal his own hat-trick in stoppage time.
The experiment with Walcott on his own up front continued for a third straight Premier League match for Arsenal, while Newcastle recalled Cheick Tiote after a suspension, a welcome reinforcement after losing several midfielders to injury.
Arsenal began well enough, a quick counter-attack in the very first minute led by Jack Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The first came after 20 minutes, however – Walcott evoking memories at the Emirates of Thierry Henry with a superbly judged run down the left, and a precise side-footed finish into the far corner.
Newcastle began to find their way back into the contest, although they needed a slice of fortune for Ba’s free-kick to beat Wojciech Szczesny – the ball deflected off Wilshere, detached from the Arsenal wall and turning away.
Both sides began well after the break, but sloppy defence also had a hand in many of the second half’s eight goals.
Danny Simpson’s casual throw from the byline was quickly intercepted, Santi Cazorla feeding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who thundered the ball low past Tim Krul from just outside the area for his first Premier League goal of the campaign.
Arsenal were pegged back again – Gabriel Obertan turning provider with a dangerous cross from the byline that deflected to Sylvain Marveaux, leaving him with a tap-in for his first goal in the top flight.
Wilshere was the provider for Arsenal’s third, a bustling run and superb chipped cross, Lukas Podolski getting the better of Fabricio Coloccini on the line to bundle in.
Once more, though, Newcastle had a response. It was a marvellous run and outrageous cross from Marveaux, using the outside of his right boot to pick out Ba at the far post, who thundered home.
Four minutes later, though, Walcott grabbed his second, finishing off from Kieran Gibbs’ cutback after Podolski had managed to let the ball slip through his legs.
No side in Premier League history has come back from behind four times in a match to avoid defeat, and the task proved beyond Newcastle.
When Giroud gave Arsenal a two-goal cushion with six minutes to go, the game was all but over. Substitute Aaron Ramsey whipped in a cross which Giroud got down low to nod home. Three minutes later he slid in a finish after a drive towards the box from Walcott.
But with Newcastle’s spirit finally crushed, Walcott notched his treble at the death. It was a remarkable goal, running a free kick from the left through several tame Newcastle challenges, getting up from a very strong penalty shout and then tucking a deft finish over Krul’s head.
Newcastle have played their part in two thrilling Christmas fixtures away at Old Trafford and now the Emirates, but have nothing to show for it.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have won four in a row and are bearing down fast on the Champions League places.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Theo Walcott (Arsenal) – There’s little arguing with a hat-trick, including two strikes of the highest quality and one which demonstrated plenty of composure.
TEAMS - ARSENAL: Szczesny 7, Sagna 7, Koscielny 7, Vermaelen 7, Gibbs 7, Arteta 7, Wilshere 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 8, Cazorla 7, Podolski 8, Walcott 9 - Subs: Ramsey (N/A), Coquelin (N/A), Giroud 8
NEWCASTLE: Krul 7; Simpson 5, Perch 6, Coloccini 6, Santon 6; Bigirimana 7, Tiote 7; Cisse 6, Marveaux 7, Obertan 7; Ba 8 - Subs: Ferguson (N/A), Tavernier (N/A), Shola Ameobi (N/A)