This was a north London derby in keeping with the season's scarcely credible story-lines. When you can have the institution that is Arsène Wenger questioned as never before in a swell of Arsenal supporter angst and Harry Redknapp walk free from the crown court and into the position of England manager-elect, what is a pulsating seven-goal thriller, in which one team clambers back from the grave and the other sleepwalks towards it?
Arsenal's campaign has been marked by wild scorelines, most recently the 4-0 Champions League reverse at Milan. The 8-2 at Manchester United cut them to the core. But this one was rather happier, starring in the same ballpark as the 5-3 win at Chelsea. Expect the unexpected.
Wenger sat slumped when Emmanuel Adebayor celebrated his 28th birthday with the penalty that put Tottenham 2-0 up against his former club. But it was the high point for the visitors, who departed with a dent to their pride and their aspirations to finish as London's top club.
This was a triumph to make the Arsenal support forget their misgivings. It contained Robin van Persie's latest stunning goal and a collector's item from the excellent Tomas Rosicky, his first in the Premier League for more than two years.
But it was Theo Walcott who epitomised the theme of transformation. The England winger endured a wretched first half, his touch heavy and his confidence appearing in pieces. He left the field to a standing ovation, having scored Arsenal's fourth and fifth goals with nervelessly executed finishes.
The Arsenal players milked the applause at full-time and there was talk from the dressing room that the seven-point gap to Tottenham could yet be clawed back. Wenger spoke of everything having been "perfect", apart from the opening five minutes when his team had ceded the advantage to Louis Saha's deflected shot on the counterattack. As is his wont these days, Wenger could not resist a pop at the naysayers, of which there are plenty connected to the club. "Arsenal is alive more than anyone thought before the game," he said.
Tottenham were rendered shell-shocked and their misery was compounded by Scott Parker's dismissal for a second bookable offence in the 87th minute, an ill-timed lunge at Thomas Vermaelen. He will be suspended for Sunday's visit from Manchester United. Parker did not complain and he even went back to say sorry to Vermaelen, reinforcing another motif. Tottenham's performance came to resemble an apology. "We buckled, which is not like us," Redknapp admitted.
The manager said he would have expected to win at 2-0 but at no point could he feel comfortable. His team's second came against the run of play, with Arsenal having responded positively to their nervous start, Van Persie dragging wide when given a second bite inside the area and Rosicky drawing a flying save from Brad Friedel with a flicked header.
The penalty was laced with controversy. Gareth Bale showed his strength to hold off Kieran Gibbs but, inside the area and with Wojciech Szczesny lured into a bolt from his line, the winger went down. It was difficult to see that a touch from Szczesny or any defender had prompted the tumble but, on the other hand, Bale may claim to have felt contact, whether he initiated it or not. Adebayor's composure from the spot was commendable.
Arsenal's revival was ignited when, after Van Persie had struck the post, Gibbs fed Mikel Arteta and his floated cross was headed home by Bacary Sagna. The home crowd completed their whirlwind first-half journey when Van Persie showcased his touch and technique to beat Friedel with a left-foot curler.
Redknapp and his assistant Joe Jordan clashed verbally with Arsenal fans behind the benches but it was Tottenham's players who needed the hard hats. Yossi Benayoun was denied by Friedel from Arteta's fine pass but moments later the stadium was plunged into frenzy when Rosicky timed his run to convert Sagna's cross.
The scene was cleared for Walcott. His first goal was a beautifully clipped effort after good work from Rosicky and Van Persie and it was as though a switch had been flicked. When Alex Song lofted a pass forward in the 68th minute, Walcott's touch was excellent, his low finish instinctive and unstoppable.
Asked whether the five-goal comeback had given Wenger hope ahead of the return against Milan on Tuesday week, he laughed. Arsenal, though, have demonstrated a taste for the outlandish.
Man of the match Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal)