Despite taking the lead early and dominating much of the first half, Preston were unable to end Arsene Wenger’s record of winning every single FA Cup third round game.
Olivier Giroud was again the hero for the Gunners, after the French striker stuck late on for the second time this week to rescue Arsenal.
Wenger’s side might have got the result, but it was far from a pleasing performance from the North London side.
The defence was disorganised and easy to break down for a majority of the first half, with Gabriel again looking poor in defence and allowing Preston to open the scoring early on, and the midfield paring of Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka will raise some questions for Wenger.
Saturday night blues
Jordan Hugill was played through on goal after Gabriel failed to track his marker, the striker then cut the ball back to Callum Robinson on the edge of the 12-yard box, and the 21-year-old striker slotted the ball past David Ospina with a calm side-footed finish.
Robinson came close to a second goal for the Lilywhites 21 minutes in, when a fantastic cross from the right wing found the head of the youngster, however Shkodran Mustafi made a great block to deny Robinson a second.
Arsenal in free-fall
Preston’s confidence should had made it 2-0 moments later, when Arsenal were exposed after yet another poor offside trap from Gabriel allowed Robinson to sprint down the by line, and play a perfect cross to All Hugill, but the striker couldn’t get the vital touch that would had made it 2-0 to the hosts.
Nacho Monreal denied Preston the second goal that they should have had in the 36th minute, when Paul Gallagher was played through on goal after a mistake by Mustafi, and the midfielder’s lob over the head of Ospina was cleared off the line by the Spanish full back.
Gone in 50 seconds
All of Preston’s hard work and effort in the first half was wiped away in just 50 seconds after the restart, as Ramsey levelled the game up moments after the second half had started.
Alex Iwobi danced his way though the Preston defence, before laying the ball off to Ramsey. The Wales international span away from his marker outside the penalty box, and the midfielder beautifully curled the ball past the reach of Maxwell, to score his first goal in 21 games for Arsenal.
The Gunners were looking more alive and deadly after coming out for the second half, however Preston were doing well to absorb the pressure from the visitors, and the Lilywhites still looked capable of creating a chance with Arsenal’s defence still looking shaky in the second half.
Maxwell was called into action again 72 minutes in, when a low corner from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found the feet of Mustafi six-yards from goal, and the defender’s volley was matched by a great reaction save from the Preston keeper, to deny Arsenal the lead.
Giroud thought he had given Arsenal the lead, after the striker volleyed home Perez’s lofted cross into the penalty area, however the linesman’s flag was raised before the ball hit the back of the net, cancelling Giroud’s effort.
Giroud to the rescue
However, with two minutes to go, Giroud found the back of the net legitimately after a fine Arsenal move. The striker played a one-two with Perez, who bust down the left wing and into the penalty box, the Spaniard then back heeled the ball to Giroud, and despite a messy finish, it was enough to beat Maxwell at the far-post.
Danny Welbeck could had capped off his return to football with a fine goal, after the former Manchester United forward fired a lethal strike from distance, however Maxwell tipped the strike onto the bar and out for a corner.
Arsenal will find out on Monday night who they face in the fourth round of the FA Cup, with six Premier League teams already eliminated from the competition.