The FA Cup holders edged one step closer to etching their name onto the trophy once as Arsene Wenger’s side battled against the resilient Championship outfit to progress
to move one step closer to retaining the FA Cup.
England winger Walcott set the tone for a dominant first-half display from the holders with the opener in just the second minute, while Ozil – making his first start since October – added the second before half-time.
Having offered precious little in terms of an attacking threat prior to the break, Brighton reduced the arrears early in a much-improved second-half showing when Chris O’Grady capitalised on some poor Arsenal defending to score.
Hopes of a stirring comeback on a weekend of upsets appeared to be dashed when Tomas Rosicky volleyed in Olivier Giroud’s chipped pass from the edge of the box.
There was still time for Sam Baldock to set up a nervy finish with a measured 75th-minute finish, but Arsene Wenger’s men held firm.
Arsenal started with the confidence of a side enjoying a three-match winning run without conceding a goal, their most recent triumph having come against Premier League champions Manchester City.
Walcott and Ozil were unused substitutes in that game but came to the fore at the Amex Stadium, the former opening the scoring inside 90 seconds with his first goal in more than a year.
When the sides last met at the same stage in 2013, Walcott broke Brighton hearts with an 85th-minute winner in a game that also ended 3-2, but he was much quicker off the mark this time around, collecting Calum Chambers’ right-wing cross with his first touch and steering home with his second.
Brighton struggled to stem the flow of attacks and fell two behind midway through the half as Ozil turned neatly in the box and swept a precise finish beyond David Stockdale following Rosicky’s neat pass into feet.
A rare foray forward from Chris Hughton’s side saw Baldock fire high and wide from 12 yards just before the half-hour mark, but when Brighton finally did manage a shot on target it changed the complexion of the match.
It came five minutes into the second half when Rosicky’s poor clearance allowed O’Grady to seize possession in the box and he showed excellent composure to fire a low shot past the flat-footed Wojciech Szczesny.
The goal energised the home fans and suddenly Brighton seemed to harbour hopes of matching Bradford City’s stunning FA Cup turnaround against Chelsea on Saturday, with Phil Parkinson’s side having come from 2-0 down to win 4-2.
That notion was soon dispelled, though, as Rosicky scored the pick of the bunch in the 59th minute. The Czech looked one way and played a pass the other before volleying the return ball from Giroud beyond Stockdale.
Baldock’s chipped finish gave Brighton a glimmer of hope, but a record home crowd were denied the equaliser that would have forced an unlikely replay as Arsenal – who saw Alexis Sanchez clip the crossbar with a late free-kick – marched on to round five.