Arsene Wenger's side had surrendered first place after Manchester City's win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, but just 24 hours later the Gunners reclaimed pole position with a hard-fought victory at St James' Park.

Giroud's first goal since November 23 was enough to give Arsenal their second successive win and move them one point ahead of second placed City heading into the new year.

Arsenal, who were without German playmaker Mesut Ozil, were under pressure early on and Wojciech Szczesny had to tip over Moussa Sissoko's effort, while Mathieu Debuchy's header hit the crossbar from the resulting corner.

But France forward Giroud bagged his 11th goal of the season with a glancing header from Theo Walcott's free-kick in the 65th minute.

Wenger's team then survived a late barrage of Newcastle pressure, with Loic Remy coming closest to an equaliser when Szczesny's clearance cannoned into his head and rebounded just wide.

"There is a big satisfaction because we surprised many people," Wenger said. "We played two away games and got six points against West Ham and Newcastle and as you can see the team is ready for a fight.

"Ozil has a shoulder problem. I don't think he will be available for Cardiff on Wednesday, maybe after that, we will see."

In the day's other early kick-off, Everton climbed into the top four with a 2-1 win over Southampton at Goodison Park.

Romelu Lukaku's winner meant Roberto Martinez's side moved above Liverpool into fourth place, although the Reds can reclaim that spot with a draw or win at Chelsea later on Sunday.

"Southampton are a very good side and we knew we had to be perfect in our performance. The two goals were of outstanding quality," Martinez said.

"To see the way we got the winning goal was very satisfying and the nature of the victory was also pleasing considering the players we had out."

Irish defender Seamus Coleman opened the scoring for Everton with a fine strike in the ninth minute.

The Toffees were rocked in the 71st minute when Adam Lallana picked out Gaston Ramirez and the Southampton star advanced before smashing a dipping shot past Everton keeper Joel Robles.

But on-loan Chelsea striker Lukaku struck three minutes later to seal Everton's third win in their last four matches.

James McCarthy slid the ball to Lukaku just inside the penalty area and the Belgian took one touch before lashing home his ninth club goal of the season.