Danny Welbeck scored twice as Arsenal recovered from a series of setbacks to claim a 3-2 victory over Southampton and keep Mark Hughes’ side deep in relegation trouble.

Charlie Austin looked to have earned a hard-fought point when he equalised (73) with only his second touch from the bench, but Welbeck scored his second of the game just eight minutes later and the header proved decisive.

The result was tough on a Saints side that had punished a defensive mix-up to take a surprise lead through Shane Long (17), before further first-half goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (28) and Welbeck (38) wrestled the contest back in Arsenal’s favour.

An action-packed encounter descended into chaos in the closing moments as Jack Stephens and Mohamed Elneny saw red for angry reactions, but while Arsenal, on course for the Europe League semi-finals, can savour a sixth straight win in all competitions, Hughes’ imperilled side remain three points from safety.

Arsene Wenger had made seven changes with Thursday’s Moscow decider in mind and though the visitors were under pressure again early on, Tadic cynically clattering Reiss Nelson when the youngster dropped a shoulder, the game’s first chance fell their way as Arsenal switched off.

Tadic raced onto a forward punt, James Ward-Prowse’s resulting effort cleared off the line, and the Serbian was afforded more space at the byline moments later with the hosts’ brisk start seeming increasingly deceptive.

Arsenal looked ragged and this time Tadic’s attacking intent paid off, Long darting beyond Hector Bellerin before beating a dithering Shkodran Mustafi at the front post as Petr Cech was left to berate his team-mate.

Arsene Wenger had made seven changes with Thursday’s Moscow decider in mind and though the visitors were under pressure again early on, Tadic cynically clattering Reiss Nelson when the youngster dropped a shoulder, the game’s first chance fell their way as Arsenal switched off.

Tadic raced onto a forward punt, James Ward-Prowse’s resulting effort cleared off the line, and the Serbian was afforded more space at the byline moments later with the hosts’ brisk start seeming increasingly deceptive.

Arsenal looked ragged and this time Tadic’s attacking intent paid off, Long darting beyond Hector Bellerin before beating a dithering Shkodran Mustafi at the front post as Petr Cech was left to berate his team-mate.

A sparse home crowd bristled as their side laboured but Aubameyang hauled them back into the contest just before the half-hour mark, the finish on the stretch scruffy but the back-flick into his path from Welbeck inspired.

Alex Iwobi had played in Welbeck for the equaliser and he found the striker again as Arsenal finally took command seven minutes before the break, Welbeck cutting inside before firing a ball that looped in off Maya Yoshida’s leg.

Iwobi, drifting dangerously between the lines, tested McCarthy himself after the restart but the Gunners remained vulnerable while their lead was slender and after Cech thwarted Pierre-Emile Hojberg, Mohamed Elneny cleared a Wesley Hoedt header off the line.

Long made Cech work again when he rose to meet a Ryan Bertrand corner and showed sharp reactions to divert Cedric’s effort into the back of the net with just over an hour gone, a warning fired even if the flag was raised.

Aubameyang left the field for Alexandre Lacazette to a standing ovation while Hughes threw on Austin as a second striker in a change that proved pivotal, the substitute tapping in for swift impact when Cedric centred.

Welbeck missed a glorious chance from just yards out when Jack Wilshere had stretched to keep a move alive but he made no mistake shortly after with a back-post header following more fine work by Iwobi.

The Saints were reduced to 10 men in stoppage time after Stephens was dismissed for his reaction to having his shirt pulled by Wilshere, before Elneny was sent off for a shove on Cedric as tempers flared before the whistle finally came.

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