Arsene Wenger's men put their recent woes behind them to complete a stunning turnaround at the Emirates, thanks to a devestating second half performance
Three goals in a destructive 10-minute spell turned the game on its head, after Villa deservedly had lead at the break thanks to goals from Richard Dunne and Darren Bent.
Arsene Wenger’s side, who had lost their last three games in all competitions, appeared to be on course for another miserable day until two Robin van Persie penalties and a Theo Walcott effort rescued the day and eradicated their recent woes.
Both teams named strong sides for the encounter, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Van Persie starting for the hosts, whilst Thierry Henry, whose goal dispatched Leeds United in the previous round, had to be content with a place on the bench.
LA Galaxy loanee Robbie Keane continued up front for the visitors following his impressive two-goal haul against Wolves in the league last weekend.
Lukas Fabianski also started in the Arsenal goal in place of first choice keeper Wojciech Szczesny.
The home side started brightly, with a short free-kick leading to Thomas Vermaelen rifling a ferocious 30 yard effort that Shay Given palmed over at full stretch.
Minutes later, Tomas Rosicky’s through ball sent Theo Walcott racing through on goal, but the England international got it all wrong as he skewed horribly wide.
Villa briefly responded when Alan Hutton’s cross found an unmarked Bent, but the Villans' top scorer hesitated as Fabianski charged out of his goal, even though the striker was first in line to reach the ball.
Although Arsenal looked the more comfortable team in possession, they failed to create any end product and were punished for their lack of urgency just after the half-hour mark.
A short-corner routine lead to Keane clipping the ball into the box, and Dunne rose highest to power a header into the top corner and give the visitors the lead.
Arsenal instantly fought back when Rosicky’s tame shot was spilled by Given, but the Irish keeper gathered the loose ball.
Alan Hutton then carelessly lost the ball in his own box, but Ramsey couldn’t beat the keeper once more from a tight angle.
After Oxlade-Chamberlain saw his ferocious effort saved, Villa capitalised by racing up the other end to double their lead with a classic breakaway goal that exposed the flaws in the hosts' brittle defence once more.
Bent, who had scored six goals in his last eight appearances against Arsenal prior to this fixture, continued his good record against his boyhood club by running onto Stephen Ireland’s precise throughball and clinically tucking the ball home from a tight angle after Fabianski had saved his initial effort.
Arsenal came out a re-energised side after the break, and were unfortunate not to instantly pull a goal back when Per Mertesacker’s header was cleared off the line by Ireland.
The hosts handed themselves a lifeline soon later when Ramsey won a penalty after being cynically felled by Dunne in the area.
Van Persie stepped up to cooly send Given the wrong way and dispatch his 24th goal of the campaign.
Just moments later Hutton’s goal-line clearance fortuitously struck Walcott and bounced into the net after the winger had initially tricked his way through the defence and seen his low shot blocked.
The turnaround was then completed when referee Michael Jones awarded another blatant spot-kick after Laurent Koscielny’s surging run was brought to a halt by Bent, with Van Persie emphatically converting into the roof of the net.
Arsenal had further chances to extend their lead, with man of the moment Van Persie looking to seal his hat-trick by testing Given once more but narrowly blazing Walcott’s cut-back wide.
Villa wasted a good chance to equalise when Ireland’s pacey cross was met by the head of Ciaran Clark, but Fabianski gratefully clung onto the ball.
Thus the Gunners held on for the win and sealed a trip to meet north-east opposition in the next stage of the competition in the form of Sunderland or Middlesbrough.
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