The Blades had not won in the league at home since August 18 and had lost their last three top-flight outings in front of their own fans.
However, Lys Mousset’s first-half goal got the world’s oldest football stadium rocking and, along with some stoic and organised defending, it proved enough for a famous triumph.
It was only Arsenal’s second loss of the season but their troubles on their travels continue – Unai Emery’s team have not won away in the league since the opening day – as the Gunners missed the chance to go third in the table.
Arsenal thought they should have had a penalty after six minutes when John Egan pulled Sokratis back by his shirt as the hosts defended a corner.
Referee Mike Dean seemed to have a good view of the incident but he was unmoved, although television replays appeared to show Egan had got away with one.
The Gunners should have taken the lead midway through the first half. Nicolas Pepe started a swift, slick counter attack deep inside his own half and he should have finished it too.
The attack developed down the left and Sead Kolasinac whipped a pin-point cross into the six-yard box where Pepe was arriving at the far post, but the Ivorian went for the ball with his left foot rather that his right and somehow touched it wide.
The Blades capitalised on their good fortune after half an hour when Mousset turned the ball home from close range after Jack O’Connell had headed Oliver Norwood’s corner back across goal.
The hosts could have had a penalty when George Baldock went down under a challenge from Kolasinac, while immediately at the other end Arsenal felt aggrieved for the second time when, rather than point to the penalty spot, referee Dean booked Bukayo Saka for diving after he went to ground following a coming together with Egan.
Arsenal assistant coach Freddie Ljungberg was so incensed by the decision that he also received a yellow card for his protests.
Dean Henderson ensured his side went into half-time ahead when he pushed away Granit Xhaka’s 30-yard strike in first-half injury time.
Arsenal made a change at the break with Dani Ceballos replacing Joe Willock. The Spaniard, on loan from Real Madrid, gave the home defenders something new to think about early in the second half, coming in-field from the left and finding pockets of space.
He might have equalised after an hour but scuffed his shot from Saka’s cross and, in the end, it was a routine save for Henderson.
At the other end the Blades remained a threat and Baldock sliced an attempt wide before John Fleck’s driven effort rippled the side-netting, with many inside Bramall Lane thinking it was 2-0.
Fleck then hit a swerving shot from long distance that was spilled by Bernd Leno, who managed to regather the ball before the onrushing David McGoldrick could pounce.
Emery brought on the fit-again Alexandre Lacazette, out since September with an ankle injury, midway through the second half, with Xhaka making way.
The Frenchman soon won a free-kick in a dangerous position just on the edge of the box. Pepe took it but his curling effort over the defensive wall was seen all the way into the hands of Henderson.
The hosts withstood some pressure late on as the Gunners searched for an equalising goal. Kolasniac headed over the crossbar and Calum Chambers flashed a shot across the face of goal but Chris Wilder’s team saw it out for a deserved win.
“The whole football club, to watch a game like this, the magnitude of it and to play well and get a win,” Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder told Sky Sports Premier League.
“We limited them to few chances and backed up a good performance with a good result – we didn’t a few weeks ago against the European champions.
“We wanted to make sure if we played well against a top side we got something from the game and three points is a great reward for the players.
“Getting ahead gave us something to hang on to, we defended manfully and Dean (Henderson) has made a couple of saves.”
Unai Emery felt his side had been hard done by, particularly Dean’s decision not to award a penalty when John Egan pulled Sokratis back at a corner.
“We didn’t deserve to lose,” said the Arsenal manager. “We conceded a lot of corners in the first half and they score the goal, it can happen.
“We had more chances than them but we didn’t score today. We know they have conceded the least goals in the Premier League with Liverpool and it’s going to be hard if they score the first goal – we had two very good chances but in the end we lose.
“We can speak about two key moments – one is that goal and the other is a clear penalty with Sokratis. This is the action to review, it is clear.
“I think we had three or four chances to score – if we scored one goal then we could have controlled better and also take more strong moments and confidence.”
Opta facts: Sheff Utd 1-0 Arsenal
- Sheffield United have won consecutive top-flight matches against Arsenal for the first time since October 1964.
- Arsenal have played more Premier League games at Bramall Lane without victory than they have any other ground in the competition (4 – D2 L2).
- Arsenal have lost four of their last seven Premier League away games against newly-promoted sides (W3), as many defeats as in their previous 49 (W33 D12 L4).
- Three of the 10 bookings for diving in the Premier League this season have been awarded by Mike Dean (30%), with no other referee issuing more than one this campaign.
- Since the start of last season, Arsenal have been shown more cards for diving than any other Premier League team (7).
- 13 of Jack O’Connell’s last 14 goal involvements in the league for Sheffield United have come at Bramall Lane, including each of his last eight (3 goals, 5 assists).
- Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson has kept 25 clean sheets in the league since the start of last season; more than any other goalkeeper in England’s top four tiers.
- Sheffield United’s Lys Mousset has scored two goals in six Premier League appearances this season (1 start, 5 sub apps), one more than he registered in 24 games for Bournemouth in 2018-19 (1 start, 23 sub apps).