David Luiz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored within four minutes of each other to seal Arsenal a 2-1 comeback victory at Rapid Vienna.
The hosts were handed the lead in their Europa League opener six minutes after the break when Ercan Kara blocked Bernd Leno's attempted clearance, teeing up Taxiarchis Fountas to embarrass the Arsenal goalkeeper and slot into an empty net.
Arsenal had offered little to seriously test Richard Strebinger until that point, but once they did, they found a way through with 20 minutes to go, as David Luiz nodded in Nicolas Pepe's free-kick to level.
- Mikel Arteta hails "brilliant" Thomas Partey's first start
- How the teams lined up | Match stats
- Europa League fixtures | Group tables
Within four minutes, the visitors had completed the turnaround as Hector Bellerin teed up fellow substitute Aubameyang to tap home from close range and secure Arsenal maximum points in their first Group B game.
Arsenal show grit to grind out victory
Naming six changes from Saturday's defeat at Manchester City could have disrupted Arsenal's rhythm, but the visitors dominated the early exchanges in front of around 3,000 vociferous home fans in the Austrian capital.
- Rapid Vienna made four changes from the side which thrashed Vienna Neustadt in the Austrian Cup last weekend.
- Thomas Partey made his full Arsenal debut as one of six changes from Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Manchester City.
Once both teams had got into their stride, however, the Gunners found it difficult to keep up their early high tempo. Despite controlling possession, they looked predictable and susceptible on the break, as they nearly found to their cost when Ercan Kara arrowed a snapshot past Bernd Leno's near post.
Leno would have little to do before the break, bar Marcel Ritzmaier's deflected effort forcing him to readjust and palm out, but neither did Richard Strebinger in the Rapid goal need to exert himself other than to tip David Luiz's hopeful header from a free-kick behind.
The major talking point of the half would instead be Thomas Partey, who thwarted a number of Rapid attacks while also demonstrating his impressive range of passing from deep.
After half-time, Leno would not need long to keep himself busy, and within six minutes was picking the ball out of the net from his own mistake. After a risky one-two with Luiz along the byline, the goalkeeper's attempted clearance was blocked by Kara into Fountas, who carefully slotted between stranded goalkeeper and near post to open the scoring.
Aubameyang's introduction on the hour mark may have owed more to necessity than design, but certainly had the desired effect as he soon found himself at the heart of the action.
He could claim little influence on Arsenal's leveller, with Pepe's excellent free-kick from wide catching Strebinger in no man's land for Luiz to rise highest and level on his 50th appearance for the club.
Within minutes, the defender was almost left red-faced by another moment of madness from his goalkeeper, who raced 35 yards out of his goal to beat the Brazilian to a ball forward, and after losing it to Fountas, needing some quick thinking and a sliding block from Gabriel to put the forward off sufficiently to keep the scores level.
With that let-off secured, Arsenal made more of their own next clear chance as Mohamed Elneny's slide-rule pass found Bellerin just onside, and allowed the substitute to tee up his captain in the six-yard box to tap home.
A Pepe shot from distance aside, Arsenal would see out the final 16 minutes in the sort of relative calm they would have hoped to enjoy from the rest of the game - and get off to a successful, if nervy start in Group B.
What the manager said...
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta: "We knew it was going to be a difficult match, and made it harder in the beginning with some of the decisions we made and the goal we conceded.
"If anything, it's my fault because I demand we do these things, but in the second half we understood much better the spaces we have to attack, we played with more purpose, generated much more even though we conceded a late chance with another misunderstanding at the back.
"But in general, we scored two good goals, the second was fantastic, and are delighted to start the group stage with victory.
On Thomas Partey: "He looked really solid, really comfortable, and I think he held midfield by himself in the second half when we were a little bit more open and took more chances, attacking spaces with some players.
"I think he was fantastic tonight and there is much more to come from him obviously."
Man of the match - Thomas Partey
The Europa League may not be the competition Arsenal fans have dreamed of playing in, but their Group B opener offered a chance to see what Thomas Partey is all about - and he didn't disappoint.
The midfielder showed exactly what had been expected of him, offering Arsenal a defensive shield they have lacked for many a year without the ball, and demonstrating his range of passing with it.
It was certainly a performance to impress Arteta, as quoted above, who described his showing as "fantastic" - but is expecting even more from the Ghana man.
- Arsenal have won their opening group game in each of the last four UEFA Europa League campaigns.
- This was Rapid Vienna's first home defeat in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League since October 2012 (0-4 vs Bayer 04 Leverkusen), ending their 13-game unbeaten run on home soil in the group stages of the competition.
- Since the start of the 2018-19 season, only Jordan Pickford (11) and David de Gea (9) have made more errors leading to goals among Premier League goalkeepers in all competitions than Arsenal's Bernd Leno (8).
- Taxiarchis Fountas scored Rapid Vienna's opener and his first goal in major European competition with what was his ninth shot (fifth appearance).
- David Luiz (33y 183d) made his 50th appearance for Arsenal in all competitions tonight and became the oldest player to score for the Gunners in major European competition since Sol Campbell against FC Porto in the Champions League back in February 2010 (35y 152d).
Arsenal return to Premier League action and host Leicester live on Sky Sports Box Office this Sunday; Kick-off at 7.15pm.
Rapid Vienna visit fourth-bottom Wolfsberg in the Austrian Bundesliga on Sunday at 4pm.