LONDON – Arsenal scored three times in eight second-half minutes Sunday to recover a 2-0 deficit and reach the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-2 win over Aston Villa.
Villa led 2-0 at halftime through goals by Richard Dunne and Darren Bent, prompting near silence from the home fans for long periods.
But a revitalized Arsenal side got back in the game through Robin van Persie’s 54th-minute penalty, equalized through Theo Walcott’s lucky rebound and took the lead in the 61st through a second spot kick from Van Persie.
Having avoided a fourth straight defeat, the Gunners are now just three games away from a Wembley final and will face the winner of a replay between Sunderland and Middlesbrough next month.
Arsenal won the last of its 10 FA Cups in 2005. It has not won a trophy since.
“We worked so hard,” Van Persie said. “We are still in it.”
Arsenal legend Thierry Henry missed a chance late on after coming on in the 89th for the third appearance of his loan from Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, but home fans could still cheer the result and the return from injury of France right back Bacary Sagna.
Injuries mean Arsenal has been playing without specialist fullbacks since the start of December but Sagna came on alongside Henry for his first appearance since October.
Villa’s starting lineup contained three former players from Arsenal’s fierce north London neighbour Tottenham.
One of them, on-loan Los Angeles Galaxy forward Robbie Keane, crossed for Dunne to head a 33rd-minute opener. Bent, who also played for Spurs, then scored in the 45th with a firmly hit shot from a tight angle after his initial effort had been blocked.
Arsenal looked to be in trouble but, without making any changes, manager Arsene Wenger revived his team at the interval.
Dunne’s late challenge on Van Persie gave the Netherlands striker the chance to send goalkeeper Shay Given the wrong way from the spot and Walcott created the opening for a 57th-minute equalizer with some fine control on the goalline to the right of goal.
But the England winger was lucky to score, with fullback Alan Hutton’s attempted clearance smashing Walcott in the face and rebounding over the line from close range. Hutton was the third former Tottenham player to start for Villa.
“You need a bit of luck,” Walcott said. “Hopefully that luck’s changing.”
That didn’t prevent Walcott from celebrating effusively on the touchline and Van Persie put Arsenal in front moments later after the backtracking Bent brought down Laurent Koscielny with a sliding tackle from behind.