London: Danny Welbeck inspired Arsenal to a sixth straight victory with two goals and an assist in a hot-tempered 3-2 home win over Southampton, to leave the Saints still rooted in the Premier League relegation zone.
The England forward had not scored a single league goal since September last year, but proved the catalyst for a much-changed Arsenal side ahead of their Europa League quarter-final second leg at CSKA Moscow on Thursday.
Saints remain three points adrift of safety despite taking the lead early on through a Shane Long goal and then levelling at 2-2 when Charlie Austin scored just seconds after coming on as a substitute.
But Welbeck had the last word by heading in the winner moments after he had missed a much easier chance.
And he hopes a late season return to form could help force his way into England's World Cup squad.
"I'm happy with the assist and glad to get the goals. I know when I get the opportunities in front of goal I will put them away -- apart from the one I put over," said Welbeck.
"I thought I would get another opportunity to get a winner and I kept focused on that. The World Cup will take care of itself -- I don't pick the team."
Southampton's survival hopes suffered another blow when defender Jack Stephens was sent off for an off-the-ball clash with Jack Wilshere in stoppage time, with Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny also shown a red card for shoving Cedric Soares in the face.
Sixth-placed Arsenal close to within two points of Chelsea, who hosted West Ham United later on Sunday, but remain well off the pace in the race for a top-four finish.
Despite Arsenal's recent revival, the Emirates Stadium was again far from full as fans voted with their feet against Arsene Wenger's refusal to end his 22-year stay in charge as manager.
Wenger made seven changes from the side that beat CSKA 4-1 in their quarter-final first leg on Thursday with securing a return to the Champions League by winning the Europa League now Arsenal's priority for the rest of the season.
And Southampton took full advantage of a sloppy start from the hosts in the 17th minute.
A Cedric cross from the right did not look particularly dangerous, but goalkeeper Petr Cech and defender Shkodran Mustafi left it to each other and Long nipped in to poke home.
Arsenal responded well, though, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brought them level with his sixth goal in eight appearances for the Gunners as he flicked home Welbeck's pass.
Welbeck put Arsenal ahead seven minutes before the break when he accepted a pass from Alex Iwobi on the left and shrugged off challengers before unleashing a shot that was helped past Alex McCarthy by a deflection off Maya Yoshida.
Long had the ball in the net again early in the second half, deflecting in a long-range effort from Cedric, but the forward was marginally offside.
An equaliser was coming, though, and was netted by substitute Austin in the 73rd minute after Cedric had burst into the box to square the ball for a tap-in.
Welbeck missed a great chance to put Arsenal back ahead when he fired over from three yards out after Wilshere had hooked the ball across goal.
But he made no mistake nine minutes from time when he headed Iwobi's delivery to the back post beyond McCarthy.
Updated Date: Apr 08, 2018 21:55:17 IST