By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Gerard Deulofeu's late goal earned Everton a deserved 1-1 draw at Premier League leaders Arsenal after Mesut Ozil's strike seemed set to seal three points for the home side in a sizzling clash at The Emirates on Sunday.
An absorbing contest burst into life in the closing stages as Ozil swept Arsenal in front from close range in the 80th minute, only for substitute Deulofeu to fire a powerful shot past Wojciech Szczesny four minutes later.
Olivier Giroud almost snatched victory in stoppage-time for the hosts when his 30-metre thunderbolt thumped against the woodwork, although that would have been harsh on Everton, who won at champions Manchester United on Wednesday.
With a treacherous-looking fixture list looming, Arsenal lead the table with 35 points, five clear of Liverpool who were the only one of the top five to win this weekend.
Chelsea also have 30 points with Everton, beaten only once in the league this season, fifth on 28.
"We played well at United but we played even better today," Everton's impressive new manager Roberto Martinez told reporters.
"These two results show we have got over the mental block when playing away at title contenders."
At the other end of the table, Fulham showed signs of a revival under new manager Rene Meulensteen with a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at Craven Cottage, Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov scoring the goals to snap a six-match losing streak.
Arsenal face Manchester City and Chelsea in their next two league fixtures and looked set to go into those battles with a healthy seven-point cushion after record signing Ozil netted his fourth league goal since moving from Real Madrid.
It looked as though Arsenal were going to draw a blank at home for the first time this season but Tomas Rosicky found fellow substitute Theo Walcott with a long diagonal pass and although the England winger's cross was missed by Giroud, Ozil pounced to finish past Tim Howard.
Everton, for whom young midfielder Ross Barkley was superb, refused to go home empty-handed, however, and when Romelu Lukaku failed to connect with an overhead kick, the ball ran to Spanish teenager Deulofeu who took a touch before arrowing a powerful shot through Szczesny.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger felt it was a fair result.
"It was a good game and Everton played well," he told reporters.
"They started stronger than us for the first 25 minutes. You have to give credit to them, they always looked dangerous. We were disappointed to get pegged back but it's still a point."
A point was reward for Everton's first-half domination, much of which was inspired by the surging runs of Barkley who boosted his claims to a place in England's World Cup squad.
Strong and powerful, the 20-year-old dominated the midfield as England manager Roy Hodgson watched on.
Barkley released Kevin Mirallas in one early raid but he narrowly failed to pick out Lukaku.
Hodgson would have also noted the performance of Costa Rican fullback Bryan Oviedo who linked well with Steven Pienaar down the left to keep Arsenal pinned back.
Despite their territorial dominance, Everton failed to muster many clear chances and Arsenal ended the half in style.
Everton keeper Howard had to react sharply to deny Giroud and again when Ozil played in Jack Wilshere.
Arsenal began the second period at much higher tempo than they did the first and Santi Cazorla should have given them the lead but could only head straight at the grateful Howard.
Pienaar brought a good save out of Szczesny and the Pole beat away a fierce blast from Berkley after a mix-up in defence allowed him a sight of goal.
Wenger made a triple substitution with a little over 20 minutes remaining, taking off Cazorla, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey with Walcott, Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini joining the fray.
Flamini almost made an instant impact, driving a left-footed shot just wide of the far post and Barkley forced a fine stop from Szczesny.
The game looked to be heading for stalemate until the furious finale concluded another hectic weekend in the Premier League which saw defeats for Manchester United and Chelsea.
"Deulofeu took his goal very well," Wenger said. "It was a quality game for the neutrals between two good teams but we showed fantastic attitude.
"They just won 1-0 at Old Trafford and they came here with nothing to lose, they are a good team and you could see that kind of influence the confidence has."
(editing by Ed Osmond)