London, Feb 27: Arsenal's roller-coaster season hit an unexpected high Sunday with a 5-2 comeback win over Tottenham, boosting its hopes of Champions League qualification and even of catching its high-flying local rivals.
Tottenham is enjoying its longest stay in the top three of the English league since the 1984-85 season and was chasing a fourth win from five Premier League matches against its north London neighbor.
But Arsenal hit five goals in 29 minutes to come from 2-0 down, vastly improve its chances of a 15th straight season in the Champions League and re-ignite hopes of finishing above Tottenham for a 17th year in a row.
The Gunners are now just seven points behind with 12 games remaining and they edge Chelsea for fourth place on goals scored.
"It is still possible to finish above Tottenham if we keep our run going," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "I thought that before the game. It's down to consistency."
In a season in which it has lost to Blackburn and Swansea — and been beaten 8-2 at Manchester United — Arsenal has now scored five goals against each of its biggest London rivals.
Arsenal beat Chelsea 5-3 at Stamford Bridge in October.
Spurs led in the fourth minute through Louis Saha and former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor made it 2-0 with a penalty. But Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie brought the scores level before halftime and Tomas Rosicky put the Gunners ahead six minutes into the second half.
Theo Walcott then scored twice to give Arsenal its biggest derby win over Tottenham since a 5-0 win at White Hart Lane in December 1978.
"Arsenal is alive more than anyone thought before the game," Wenger said. "Our spirit, our drive, our style — everything was perfect."
Arsenal played at the sort of pace more commonly associated with Tottenham this season and Spurs' misery was completed with three minutes remaining when Scott Parker was sent off for a second yellow card following a late challenge on Thomas Vermaelen.
The midfielder will now be suspended for next weekend's match against Manchester United.
Ten points behind leader Manchester City, Tottenham's unlikely challenge for a first league title since 1961 appears to be over.
Arsenal's midfield of Rosicky, Alex Song and the on-loan Yossi Benayoun dominated the match, taking advantage of the space created by visiting manager Harry Redknapp's decision to start with both Saha and Adebayor up front.
"We were getting overrun," Redknapp said. "They were bossing the game."
Sagna headed in unmarked from Benayoun's cross, Van Persie struck a curling shot from outside the area, Rosicky flicked in from a flowing team move and Walcott twice surged clear to round off counterattacks.
Arsenal had been widely criticized by fans and commentators this season for a lack of spirit but the Emirates Stadium crowd was roused to celebration and joyful chanting rather than the apathy and even vitriol that have been more common this season.
Chasing a first home-and-away double over Arsenal since the 1992-93 season, Tottenham led from the first clear opening.
Saha ran completely unmarked up the middle of the field onto a pass by Adebayor. Selected ahead of Rafael van der Vaart, Saha took the ball into the box and fired in a hopeful low shot that deflected off defender Vermaelen's legs and looped over goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny into the net.
The Gunners responded with vigor, Kieran Gibbs tumbling over Kyle Walker's leg in the area, Walcott drawing an interception in the area from Ledley King and Van Persie forcing Younes Kaboul into a sliding block in the space of several hectic minutes.
Adebayor, jeered throughout, scored a contentious penalty after the charging Gareth Bale tumbled over the diving Szczesny.
"The first goal we got caught on a counterattack and the second was not a penalty," Wenger said.
Van Persie shot wide of the left post and had another effort deflected past the right before Friedel made a point-blank one-handed save to push Rosicky's header from a corner over the bar.
Van Persie hit the post in the 40th but Tottenham's reprieve was temporary as the ball came back in from the left and Sagna powered a header from about 12 meters (yards) past the diving Friedel.
It was 2-2 three minutes later as Tottenham failed to clear the ball and Van Persie curled an unstoppable left-foot shot from the edge of the area around his marker and past Friedel's full-stretch dive.
Shortly after the restart, Rosicky lifted the ball over Friedel after neat interplay with Sagna, Walcott held off Walker to smash in a 65th-minute fourth after a lofted pass by Van Persie and the England winger hit the fifth goal three minutes later from a long pass by Song.
Although it is still in the FA Cup, Tottenham's focus is now on sustaining its challenge for third place and an automatic Champions League qualifying spot.
"It's going to be tight but we're still in a great position," Redknapp said. "If we can make third spot, that will be a great season for us."