Arsenal got back on track with a 2-0 win as Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc entered into the spirit of pantomime season at the Emirates.
Following their dispiriting defeat to Manchester United before the international break, Arsene Wenger's Premier League leaders started brightly against their high-flying opponents, with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey both hitting the post.
They led midway through the first half when Olivier Giroud capitalised on an inexplicable error from Boruc, dispossessing the Poland international to complete a simple finish.
An impressive collective response was typical of a Southampton side who remain third in the table but Giroud completed his brace and made it 10 goals for the season from the penalty spot after Jose Fonte pulled back Per Mertesacker at an 85th-minute corner.
Southampton were dealt a blow ahead of kick-off, which was delayed by 15 minutes due to disruption on the Piccadilly line, with news that centre-back Dejan Lovren was ruled out due to illness. Jos Hooiveld came in for his first Premier League appearance of the season.
Theo Walcott returned to the Arsenal bench following two months out with an abdominal injury, while Mertesacker was back at the heart of defence following his midweek goalscoring heroics for Germany at Wembley.
Wilshere replaced the suspended Mathieu Flamini in midfield and almost opened the scoring after 10 minutes when his deft, lofted effort bounced back off the post into Boruc's grateful arms.
The same upright was tested via Ramsey's audacious backheel from Mesut Ozil's cross but Boruc's post could not save him after a moment of madness in the 22nd minute.
Upon receiving a routine backpass from Nathaniel Clyne, he loitered terribly before an embarrassing attempt to turn Giroud resulted in the France international striker stroking the ball into an unguarded net.
Southampton forced Wojciech Szczesny into his first save of the match after 32 minutes when Mikel Arteta miscued a clearance and Adam Lallana's speculative left-footer was pushed over. The Arsenal goalkeeper then reacted superbly to thwart Jay Rodriguez's snap shot.
Luke Shaw struggled through much of the first half with a leg problem and was replaced by Steven Davis, with James Ward-Prowse reverting to right-back and Clyne filling Southampton's vacant left-back slot.
The reshuffle did not interrupt the visitors' momentum as they resumed brightly and Lallana thudded a drive into Szczesny's chest, meaning eyebrows were raised when the same player made way for Pablo Daniel Osvaldo in the 52nd minute.
Having laboured under Southampton's trademark high press, Arsenal responded impressively and Ozil cleverly engineered space in the area to test Boruc at his near post.
Osvaldo called Szczesny into action at the end of a driving 74th minute run and his attacking colleague saw an effort deflected wide.
Walcott was afforded a rapturous reception on his introduction and might have given Arsenal breathing space when he fired wide on the break before Giroud ensured a four-point lead at the summit with his composed spot-kick.
|12||O. Giroud||22' 86'|
|Coach: A. Wenger|
for Santi Cazorla 70'
for Arteta 74'
for M. Özil 81'
|´Equating Messi with anyone else is like comparing a policeman with Batman´ - Sampaoli|
|It will take years to build football culture, Wenger warns CSL|
|´Worried´ Rakitic wants Barca renewal|
|Inter not signing Messi - Moratti|
|Luis Enrique hails Barca defence after ending Anoeta curse|
|´He is made of different stuff´ - Spalletti hails Nainggolan after wondergoal|
|Tottenham´s Janssen turned down Galatasaray move, agent claims|
|Did Carroll´s wondergoal give the West Ham striker whiplash?|
|Iniesta suffers calf injury|
|Swansea situation not ´hopeless´, says Clement|
|Real Sociedad 0 Barcelona 1: Neymar ends Anoeta curse|
|´Immeasurable bulls**t´ - Ligue 1 coach destroys Van Basten´s offside plan|
|Simeone praises Atletico´s precision in Copa Del Rey win|
|Fonte situation difficult for Southampton - Puel|
|´Some of the best football in the UK´ - Watford´s Mazzarri hails Bournemouth|
|Senegal 2 Zimbabwe 0: Cisse´s men charge into quarter-finals|
|Rivaldo backs Luis Enrique to deliver more Barca success|
|Atletico Madrid 3 Eibar 0: Routine win earns quarter-final lead|
|Jesus will make Premier League history - Rivaldo|
|Adebayor: Arsenal are just Ozil and Sanchez|
|Algeria 1 Tunisia 2: Favourites on brink of elimination|
|Bayern keen to seal Coman deal as Rummenigge cools Gnabry interest|
|Pochettino has done his homework on Jesus as Spurs look to march on|
|Scrap offside? Premier League managers give Van Basten´s plans a cool reception|
|Coman ready for Bayern comeback, confirms Ancelotti|
|Pochettino upbeat despite six weeks out for Vertonghen, Lamela still a mystery|
|Cerezo defiant over Griezmann amid talk of Manchester United agreement|
|Robinho named in Brazil squad for Chapecoense fundraiser|
|Davies and Lookman aren´t the big men of Everton, warns Koeman|
|Ivory Coast v DR Congo: Dussyer demands champions show true strength|
|Replacing Robben and Ribery not easy - Hitzfeld|
|Yeray back in Athletic training after successful cancer surgery|
|Karanka targeting more Boro deals after Bamford swoop|
|Cavani: I am the ultimate finisher|
|Morocco v Togo: El Ahmadi hungry for success|
|Ancelotti denies Verratti approach|
|A-League Review: Cahill double sees Melbourne City sink Mariners|
|Manchester United very happy with Shaw, insists agent|
|Mertesacker extends Arsenal deal|
|Boost for Arsenal as key quartet returns to training|
|Will Jesus save Manchester City´s title bid? Guardiola´s new striker in Opta numbers|
|Tevez mobbed after touching down in Shanghai|
|Payet exit not inevitable - Bilic|
|Wenger: Arsenal don´t need Payet|
|Jesus wants Manchester City titles|
|Orsolini arrives for Juventus medical|
|Rivaldo backs Coutinho to join Neymar at Barcelona|
|No danger of Messi leaving Barcelona, says father|
|Augusto: I convinced Oscar to come to China|
|Madrid-bound Maradona visits Napoli training|
|Sevilla in no rush over Sampaoli talks despite Barcelona links|
|Cafu: Resurgent Brazil can challenge world´s best|
|Klopp thrilled with Coutinho|
|Manchester United replace Real Madrid as world´s richest club|
|Madrid squad annoyed by defeats - Zidane wants more energy after latest loss|
|Casemiro rues more misery for Madrid against Celta|
|´Job done, let´s go home´ - Klopp happy to avoid extra time with narrow Plymouth win|
|FA Cup Review: Southampton leave it late to beat Norwich|
|Real Madrid 1 Celta Vigo 2: Aspas and Jonny extend Madrid winless run|
|Plymouth Argyle 0 Liverpool 1: Rare Lucas goal sees Klopp´s men through|
|Manchester City in La La Land as Schalke toil underground|
|Cameroon 2 Guinea-Bissau 1: Ngadeu-Ngadjui completes comeback to send Broos´ men top|
|Monaco confirm signing of Ajax teenager Antonucci|
|Manchester United´s interest in Griezmann is unsurprising - Simeone|
|Bamford ends spell in Chelsea wilderness with Boro return|
|Louis the great - Luis Enrique explains his and Barca´s debt to Van Gaal|
|Gabon 1 Burkina Faso 1: Spot-on Aubameyang makes his point|
|PSG send Ikone on loan to Montpellier|
|Senegal v Zimbabwe: Cisse wants to live up to favourites tag|
|Ghana´s Rahman leaves AFCON with knee injury|
|Algeria v Tunisia: Mahrez demands improvement in crucial Group B clash|
|Dortmund forward Dembele hits out at Bundesliga refereeing|
|Robben hopes Alonso stays at Bayern amid retirement rumours|
|Asian champions Jeonbuk banned from 2017 Champions League|
|Rakitic still an important player for Barcelona - Luis Enrique|
|Jesus will develop quicker at City - Emerson|
|Always take the weather with you - Spanish snow blights CSKA´s training camp|
|Messi never gave Coach interview, claims father|
|Gotze questions critics but admits to falling short of expecations|
|´Conte can have our title´ - Ranieri wants Chelsea to win the Premier League|
|Tottenham reject Premier League, Bundesliga offers for Wimmer|
|Liverpool sell Ilori to Reading|
|Potential victims in football abuse probe surpasses 500|
|Bonaventura signs new AC Milan contract|
|Messi: Ronaldo has achieved great things|
|Koscielny: Wenger has built men at Arsenal|
|Messi vows to stay at Barcelona ´for as long as they want me´|
|Cafu adamant Neymar will become world´s best|
|I´m just taking a sabbatical - Van Gaal denies he´s retired|
|Not even Gerrard won Premier League - Buttner says he´s not a United flop|
|Samper ignored Wenger as Barca midfielder rejected Arsenal|
|Pleased Pioli wants more from Inter|
|Evergrande boss Scolari dismisses Turan links|
|Klopp seeks legal advice over Matip|
|Marseille complete Sanson move|