By the full-time whistle, the scenes that greeted the half-time ping felt something of an illusion. Ultimately, this was a merited and handsome victory for Arsenal and the club's fourth in a row in all competitions.
Yet again, a late season riposte seems set to follow a mid-campaign crisis. In truth, the margin of victory might have been even greater had Jack Butland not made a series of second-half saves with his hands, body and feet. By the closing stages, Arsenal were in the groove on the field and supporters found their voice to tease old foes Stoke about 'going down' to the Championship.
Yet shortly before half-time, the pent-up frustration on the Arsenal terraces had resurfaced. There had been a few triggers. A misplaced touch by Danny Welbeck. A loose pass from Mohamed Elneny. Then Arsenal wasted a set-piece and the ball eventually worked its way back into their own-half. It was a sequence that summed up a dozy first-half in which Arsenal displayed little by way of urgency or intensity.
Arsenal's second-half performance was enough to earn them a merited and handsome victory
A better side than Stoke would have created decent chances and put some daylight between the two teams. Fortunately for Arsenal, a severely limited Stoke team have scored only four goals in their last seven games and have won only one football match since Christmas. Only Xherdan Shaqiri came close in the first period, whipping a curling effort wide of the goal.
So no deficit at the break, but plenty of angst. On the half-time whistle, the jeers began in earnest. They were not deafening, but that was mostly because there were not too many in attendance.
As has become increasingly frequent of late, the Emirates had pockets of empty seats were visible everywhere. They could be seen in every stand, in the first, second and third tiers. So Arsenal fans are either particularly devout Christians observing church services on Easter Sunday or they are starting to make very clear their discontent with the