With West Ham United two goals adrift inside 10 minutes, only the most wildly optimistic Hammers fan would have harboured any hope seeing their side salvage anything from this enthralling East End encounter. 

Gabriel Jesus and Martin Ødegaard had seemingly already put Arsenal into an unassailable lead to gallop further clear in the Premier League title race, while David Moyes’ crestfallen men looked set to endure the longest of long afternoons nervously hovering above the relegation places.

But digging deep to find the pride and passion that has often been so lacking this season, West Ham battled to get back on level terms thanks to Saïd Benrahma’s spot-kick on the half-hour and Jarrod Bowen’s equaliser just after the break.

And while this confidence-boosting, battling result keeps the Hammers in 15th place – four precious points clear of the drop zone - Arsenal departed at the final whistle looking nervously over their shoulders at second-placed Manchester City, who are now just four points behind with a game in hand.

Certainly, after also seeing Bukayo Saka miss an early second-half penalty, the Gunners shot themselves in the foot, having again surrendered a two-goal lead for the second successive Sunday.

Thursday evening’s disjointed draw at KAA Gent still leaves the Hammers with work to do if they are to progress to the UEFA Conference League semi-finals but all thoughts of the return leg on Thursday (April 20, 8pm) had to be put on the back-burner as Moyes switched his attention to more pressing domestic matters.

The Scot made eight changes from the side that had been held in Belgium with only Bowen, Vladimír Coufal and skipper Declan Rice retaining their jerseys for the daunting task ahead.

History was not on West Ham’s side, either, with the Hammers coming into their 250th Premier League derby having only won two of their last 31 meetings in all competitions against the visitors.

The absence of injured central defensive duo Nayef Aguerd (ankle) and Angelo Ogbonna (back) resulted in Thilo Kehrer taking his place alongside Kurt Zouma in the back four and, after Rice and Lucas Paquetá had dumped Jesus onto the London Stadium turf with forceful early tackles, the Brazilian wasted no time in exacting his revenge with his ninth goal of the season.

Only seven minutes were on the clock, when Saka, Gabriel and Martin Ødegaard combined down the right flank to play in the overlapping Ben White and the Arsenal full-back duly sent a low cross into the six-yard box, where Jesus ghosted behind Coufal to tap the visitors ahead.

Mikel Arteta’s aces had already arrived at London Stadium with the best away record of any club in terms of victories, points won and goals scored, while they had also conceded fewest and amassed nine clean sheets on their travels, too.

Despite surrendering a two-goal lead at Anfield last Sunday, the Gunners had still extended their unbeaten run to seven matches and following his side’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool, the Spaniard had made just one change with Kieran Tierney replacing Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Seeing his side in front already, Arteta was soon celebrating a second goal on 10 minutes when Gabriel Martinelli recycled his half-cleared left-wing centre with a second cross into the West Ham area, where Ødegaard stole behind the flat-footed Kehrer before sending a cushioned side-footed volley beyond former Gunners keeper Łukasz Fabiański from eight yards to net his 11th goal of the campaign.

On the half-hour, though, the Hammers grabbed a lifeline on a rare raid into Arsenal territory, when the rampaging Rice won possession from Thomas Partey before playing Paquetá into the area, where the Brazilian was wiped out by compatriot Gabriel’s sliding lunge.

With referee David Coote pointing to the spot, Benrahma drilled the consequent penalty inside the base of the right-hand upright as Aaron Ramsdale headed in the opposite direction.

Arsenal had wobbled on Merseyside seven days’ ago and, having started so sheepishly, West Ham - buoyed by Benrahma’s ninth goal of the campaign – now enjoyed their best spell of the afternoon, to date.

After Partey was booked for halting the Algerian’s run forward, Coufal delivered the subsequent free-kick into the area, where lone striker Michail Antonio’s downward header was tipped over the bar by Ramsdale as it bounced back up from the turf.

And having just forced the first corner of the afternoon, Bowen’s flag-kick was then met by Tomáš Souček, whose far-post header was then deflected behind for a second, before Jesus was booked for hauling down Antonio as he attempted another burst forward in first-half stoppage time.

Still a goal down at the break and despite having only enjoyed less than 30 per cent possession during those opening 45 minutes or so, Moyes' men now returned for the restart harbouring those hopes of a second-half recovery.

Within seven minutes, though, they looked like they could be back in for another frustrating afternoon, when Antonio charged-down Martinelli’s point-blank shot with his arm but there was to be a let-off for the Hammers when Saka curled the subsequent spot-kick beyond the outstretched right glove of Fabiański and the left-hand upright.

The England World Cup star was still staring high into the Stratford skies, when Coufal outmuscled Jesus at the other end and, although the Czech Republic defender’s quickly taken throw-in was cleared to halfway, Kehrer cleverly lofted the ball back into the Arsenal area, where Bowen superbly volleyed an angled eight-yarder through the helplessly-exposed Ramsdale.

London Stadium exploded into a bubbling cauldron of claret and blue noise, while the red and white north London contingent sat in stunned silence at the sight of seeing another two-goal lead evaporate for the second weekend running.

Now West Ham were in the ascendancy and that forced Arteta to shuffle his pack with the introduction of Jorginho and Leandro Trossard as Jesus and Partey both retired to the dug-out.

Although the surging Saka picked up a sloppy crossfield ball and tested Fabiański with a low 15-yarder, only Tierney’s terrific tackle denied Bowen in the act of shooting before Antonio later headed Benrahma’s deep cross onto the outside of the far post.

Arteta went for another double switch with Reiss Nelson and Fábio Vieira coming on for Martinelli and Tierney, while Maxwel Cornet and Flynn Downes entered the fray as Paquetá and Antonio left to generous applause just a few minutes before the rest of their Hammers team-mates also departed at the final whistle to standing ovations after battling for their determined draw.

West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Cresswell, Zouma, Kehrer, Souček, Rice, Paquetá (Downes 87), Benrahma (Fornals 90), Bowen, Antonio (Cornet 87). Unused subs: Areola, Anang, Johnson, Lanzini, Ings, Emerson.

Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Tierney, (Vieira 85), Gabriel, Holding, Partey (Trossard 66), Ødegaard (Nketiah 89), Xhaka, Saka, Martinelli (Nelson 85), Jesus (Jorginho 66). Unused subs: Turner, Smith-Rowe, Kiwior, Walters.

Booked: Partey (35), Jesus (45+2).

Referee: David Coote,