Tottenham Hotspur extended their lead above Arsenal to seven points as they beat their north London rivals 2-1 in a thrilling derby at White Hart Lane.

Two goals in less than a minute from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon gave Spurs a healthy lead towards the end of the first half but Arsenal fought back after the break through a Per Mertesacker header.

Both sides forced chances in the second half but Spurs survived a late Arsenal onslaught to move seven points clear of their north London rivals and re-claim third place from Chelsea.

Arsenal dominated possession for large parts of the first half but for all their time with the ball, Arsene Wenger’s side created few clear-cut chances.

And they were punished late on in the half as it was Spurs who went ahead through Bale in the 38th minute - the Welshman latching on to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s through ball and slotting past Szczesny.

The goal came against the run of play but less than one minute after the restart the home side went 2-0 up through Aaron Lennon.

Scott Parker picked up the ball near the half way line and carried it towards goal before picking out Lennon’s darting run in from the right, allowing the winger to calmly round Szczesny and finish.

It was a dream finish to a first half in which Spurs looked second best for the majority but Arsenal did not sit on their laurels and pulled a goal back straight after the restart when Mertesacker nodded in Theo Walcott’s free kick from the left.

The German defender got ahead of Bale at the front post on 51 minutes and glanced his header beyond Hugo Lloris into the far corner, helped by a slight deflection off the Welshman.

Bale somehow skied his shot from close range when Assou-Ekotto’s sharp low cross fizzed through to him on the six-yard box soon after.

The largely absent Emmanuel Adebayor was forced off with a knee injury after landing awkwardly as he jumped with the Arsenal back line with 25 minutes to go.

He was replaced by Jermain Defoe who had an instant impact - first setting up Sigurdsson, who squandered a one-on-one with the keeper, and then flashing wide from the edge of the box.

Arsenal came back at Spurs and Ramsey dragged a shot wide from inside the box as they pressed for an equaliser.

The visitors pressed hard late on but Spurs back line held firm and saw out the game to take all three points and lift the roof off White Hart Lane at the final whistle.

Dembele was forced off with an ankle injury late on to put a slight downer on an otherwise fantastic week for Andre Villas-Boas’ side, who now face Inter Milan in the home leg of their Europa League tie on Thursday.

Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto, Dembele (Livermore, 87), Parker, Lennon, Bale, Sigurdsson, Adebayor (Defoe, 66). Subs: Friedel, Gallas, Naughton, Holtby, Carroll.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal, Ramsey, Arteta (Podolski, 77), Walcott, Wilshere, Cazorla, Giroud. Subs: Mannone, Koscielny, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Gervinho.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Bookings: Adebayor, 19, Vertonghen, 28, Ramsey, 29, Walker, 90+4.

Att: 36,170.