A few days on from putting Manchester City to the sword at Villa Park, Unai Emery had the last laugh against the club who gave him the boot four years ago, as John McGinn struck early and the Lions absorbed copious amounts of pressure from the Gunners, who created numerous chances but were bereft of a finishing touch all evening.
As the suspended Mikel Arteta took his place in the director's box, stand-in coach Albert Stuivenberg had his head in his hands just six minutes into the contest, as Gabriel Martinelli's inswinging cross to the back post picked out the run of Bukayo Saka, who evaded an asleep Lucas Digne, but he just could not connect with the Brazilian's delivery on the stretch.
Villa had set up base camp in the Arsenal half before that opening, though, and the roaring Lions made the breakthrough just one moment later, as McGinn spun brilliantly after receiving Leon Bailey's cutback and finished brilliantly into the top corner from close range.
Facing another gargantuan test of their title mettle, Arsenal were benefitting from a few Villa giveaways at the back as Emery's men played with fire, but a notable lack of killer instinct prevented the Gunners from silencing the Villa Park crowd.
Arsenal were still able to carve out several promising chances, but Emiliano Martinez was equal to all of them, comfortably saving a curling Saka strike in the 32nd minute before guessing correctly to make a brilliant stop from Martin Odegaard's close-range drive in the 39th minute.
The former Gunners backup was also called into action to parry a Gabriel Jesus strike to safety in the 42nd minute, allowing Villa to head into the tunnel with their slender lead intact, but Emery's men were far from home and hosed.
Following a dressing down from Arteta in the dressing room, Arsenal exploded out of the blocks in the second period and were nearly level in bizarre circumstances in the 57th minute, as a mix-up between Martinez and Ollie Watkins at a corner ended with the ball clipping the inside of the post, and Diego Carlos had to save the day by hacking the ball off the line.
Odegaard then fired wide from a Kai Havertz cutback just one minute later, before Saka skipped past Martinez and rolled the ball into the empty net just after the hour mark, but the Villa high line had caught the Englishman out.
Villa remained a threat in their own right, though, as Watkins sent a low drive straight into David Raya's body in the 68th minute, and Emery's smart substitutions helped the hosts regain a measure of control following the earlier Arsenal onslaught.
An almighty goalmouth scramble in the first minute of injury time ended with Havertz bundling the ball over the line, but it was simply one of those days for Arsenal, as the German's back-post finish was ruled out for handball.
The lengthy VAR review meant that Villa were forced to see out as many as nine added minutes, but Emery's backline continued to repel Arsenal's futile attacks en route to a history-making win, one which leaves them just one point behind Arteta's men in the table.
The third-placed Lions now have a Europa Conference League trip to Zrinjski Mostar on the calendar for Thursday, while the Gunners - who missed the chance to return to top spot - head to PSV Eindhoven for their final Champions League group-stage clash on Tuesday.No Data Analysis info