The reactions told you everything. An incensed Marco Silva could barely bring himself to shake the hand of referee Jared Gillett after neither the Australian official or the video assistant spotted anything wrong with Arsenal’s winner – stabbed home by Gabriel following a robust challenge on Bernd Leno and a possible handball by Bukayo Saka. In the opposite dugout, Mikel Arteta celebrated the goal by rushing along the touchline in a moment of pure joy. The Gunners, who looked like they would lose not just their 100% start but their unbeaten record too, had turned it around without touching the heights of their fine early season form.

Fulham fought manfully and it was always a tall order to come away from the Emirates, especially when you consider that the Cottagers have never won a competitive game at Arsenal. Their most recent memory of this stadium, during the lockdown, was a late leveller from Eddie Nketiah, a substitute who helped change the complexion of today’s game, that was contentiously adjudged onside. A furious Joachim Andersen kicked over a water dispenser in the away dressing room afterwards as Fulham’s feint hopes of avoiding relegation went up in smoke. This defeat was nothing like as damaging – coming at the end of an outstanding few weeks back in the top flight – but it was just as gut-wrenching.

Aleksandar Mitrovic’s hundredth goal for the Whites proved only academic in the final analysis, but the Serbian had delivered a textbook display of number nine play for a side operating exclusively on the counter-attack. On the day that Scott Parker, the manager who deemed him barely worthy of a start the last time Fulham limped out of the Premier League, masterminded Bournemouth’s 9-0 defeat at Liverpool, Mitrovic pressed fluently from the front, held up the ball impressively and punished a glaring error from Gabriel with ruthless efficiency – firing a measured finish across Aaron Ramsdale and into the bottom corner.

Arsenal dominated the first half, finishing the opening 45 minutes, with 72% of the possession but with nothing to show for it. The closest they came to breaking the deadlock was when Gabriel Martinelli clipped the crossbar with an inswinging corner, although Leno did make himself big to save from Saka. Tim Ream and Tosin Adarabioyo made last-ditch tackles to deny Gabriel Jesus a sight of goal, but Fulham weren’t overstretched regularly. There were some boos from the home fans as half time came: the restlessness only increased as the visitors became more expansive after the interval.

Arsenal were guilty of overplaying at the back with Saka chipping a ball from his own corner flag across to Gabriel, whose heavy touch let in Mitrovic. The centre back no clue that the Serbian master marksmen was lurking and Fulham’s number nine advanced on goal, holding off the Brazilian, before using him to leave Ramsdale unsighted as he finished with aplomb. Four goals in four top flight fixtures: not bad for someone who can’t do it in the top flight.

Arteta sent on Nketiah in response and Arsenal threw bodies forward at every opportunity. They were still cavalier at the back and Mitrovic almost stalked down Gabriel, but the hosts survived. From jeopardy at one, the Gunners got extremely lucky at the other end. Saka created a little bit of panic in the Fulham back line with a driving run before finding Odegaard in a central position. The midfielder’s speculative shot spun off Tosin Adarabioyo, completely wrongfooting Leno in the Fulham goal.

Fulham’s response to going behind was immediate. Bobby Decordova-Reid, who ran himself into the ground for the cause, won a corner down the right flank. Andreas Pereira whipped it in and after Mitrovic met it with a trademark header, Ramsdale got a glove to it, pushing it out. Decorodva-Reid’s follow up was blocked by Ben White. Mitrovic then glanced a header fractionally wide before almost getting on the end of a deep Robinson cross from the lead, despite being held by Saliba.

With time ticking away, Nketiah drifted away down the right flank – escaping the attentions of both the Fulham rearguard and an offside flag – before cutting it and drilling a daisycutter just past the post. Arsenal then forced a succession of corners and the decisive moment came from a third in a row. The VAR check didn’t disallow the goal, but Fulham still roused themselves for a final effort. Ramsdale made a sensational stop to keep out a bullet header from Nathaniel Chalobah and the Whites had only plaudits to show their energy, endeavour and pushing Arsenal all the way. Again.

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; White, Tierney (Nketiah 61), Gabriel, Saliba; Xhaka, Elneny; Saka, Odegaard (Hodling 90+5), Martinelli; Gabriel Jesus (Tomisayu 89). Subs (not used): Turner, Alenecar, Cedric, Fernando Vieria, Lokonga, Smith-Rowe.

BOOKED: White, Gabriel Jesus.

GOALS: Odegaard (64), Gabriel (88).

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Leno; Tete (Mbabu 79), A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream (Stansfield 88); Palhinha (Chalobah 88), Reed; Decordova-Reid, Kebano (Cairney 69), Pereira (Diop 79); Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Duffy, Francois, Harris.

BOOKED: Tete, Robinson,

REFEREE: Jared Gillett.