Arsenal put WSL title rivals Chelsea to the sword to claim a statement win in front of another record crowd at the Emirates Stadium and move joint top of the table.

The Gunners got off to a great start as a good attack on the left ended with Kim Little finding Victoria Pelova to tee up Beth Mead, who shifted onto her left foot before firing into the roof of the net in the eighth minute.

But Chelsea were back on terms within five minutes when Johanna Rytting Kaneryd collected the ball on the right and fired past Manuela Zinsberger at the near post after cutting inside.

Caitlin Foord was denied at the far post from Little's low ball across the face of goal, as Eve Perisset produced a timely block to deny the Australian a tap-in.

But Perisset's foul on Foord gave the hosts a free-kick to the left of the box midway through the half, with Mead's delivery too deep to cause any damage.

Arsenal continued to enjoy the bigger share of possession and Katie McCabe's excellent crossfield ball allowed Foord to play in Steph Catley, but the visiting defence cut out her cross at the expense of a corner, which also came to nothing.

The hosts regained the lead from another corner in 36th minute, though, after Foord had seen her cross headed behind, as Amanda Ilestedt nodded home from Catley's inswinging right-wing delivery.

And it was 3-1 less than two minutes later as Catley found the run of Alessia Russo who surged into the box on the left and opened up her body before placing a shot inside the far post.

Zinsberger had to be alert in the 45th minute to parry a drive from Erin Cuthbert, with Sam Kerr lurking for the loose ball, to protect the two-goal cushion heading into the break.

And Chelsea boss Emma Hayes made a triple change during the interval, with Sjoeke Nusken, Maren Mjelde and Perisset replaced by Fran Kirby, Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence.

Lauren James sent an effort from range just wide within three minutes of the restart as the visitors looked to respond.

And McCabe received her fourth yellow card of the season for disputing a decision that had gone against her with referee Rebecca Welch, with Foord cautioned soon after.

Jonas Eidevall was forced into making his first change around the hour mark as Little, on her 299th appearance for the club, went off as a precaution to be replaced by Frida Maanum.

And Catley was left grimacing just moments later after a vital sliding tackle denied Rytting Kaneryd another shot at goal inside the box, but she was able to continue.

Lia Walti was left with a sore instep when James stood on her left foot and picked up a booking, with Lawrence denied a shot at goal by the recovering home defence after being played in on the right on a Chelsea counter-attack.

And Arsenal were awarded a penalty on 72 minutes when Russo went down under the challenge of Ann-Katrin Berger as she looked to latch on to Pelova's pass into the box, with Jess Carter having just nudged the ball away.

With regular taker Little off the field, Russo tucked the spot-kick into the bottom left corner of the net with great composure and confidence to make it 4-1 and end a run of four successive penalty misses by Arsenal.

And it proved to be Russo's last contribution to the cause she made way for Stina Blackstenius in a triple switch, which also saw Mead and Catley replaced by Cloe Lacasse and Noelle Maritz.

Further yellow cards were shown to Maritz and Maanum in the closing stages, with Blackstenius spurning a gilt-edged chance to add a fifth in the 86th minute when sending her shot well wide of the right post.

Pelova picked up the fifth booking of the game for Arsenal when bringing down Cuthbert soon after, but then sent Lacasse racing clear on the right before cutting in and finding Foord, whose shot was deflected behind.

And Chelsea had another let-off when Blackstenius headed wide from McCabe's free-kick in stoppage time, before Zinsberger saved comfortably from Mia Fishel and Kerr headers at the other end before the final whistle.

Arsenal: Zinsberger, McCabe, Wubben-Moy, Ilestedt, Catley (Maritz 75), Pelova (Cooney-Cross 90), Walti, Mead (Lacasse 76), Little (Maanum 61), Foord, Russo (Blackstenius 75). Unused subs: Beattie, Miedema, D'Angelo, Codina.

Attendance: 59,042.