Second-half goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson, Oumar Niasse and Tom Davies earned Everton a deserved win over Crystal Palace and continued the Blues’ good home form under manager Sam Allardyce.
The Blues produced a perfect response to the disappointing defeat at Arsenal a week earlier with this 3-1 victory, sealed with a quick-fire double within five minutes of play restarting after half-time.
Davies put the seal on an excellent afternoon for Evertonians with a predatory finish 15 minutes before the end.
And although Luka Milivojevic pulled one back for the visitors, this was a comfortable win for the Toffees.
The visitors from south London had been somewhat of a bogey team for Everton in recent seasons, emerging unbeaten on their four previous visits to Goodison. But that run was put to bed on a wet Merseyside afternoon, ensuring that the Blues’ record under Allardyce at the Grand Old Lady now reads four wins, two draws and just the solitary defeat since his appointment as boss in November.
Sigurdsson had already built up a collection of cracking goals since his summer switch from Swansea and his seventh in Everton colours was another fine effort, albeit his 20-yard strike from distance - notched 45 seconds into the second half - found the net via the aid of a slight deflection.
Niasse’s header four minutes later was put on a plate following a fine left-footed cross from Cuco Martina before Davies volleyed in from close-range to round off the win.
The only negative to take from this hard-fought win was an injury to Eliaquim Mangala, suffered on just his second appearance since joining on transfer deadline day from Manchester City. Seamus Coleman was also withdrawn at half-time after a typically dynamic display in the first half.
Allardyce made four changes from the defeat against Arsenal a week earlier, reverting back to the side that, last time out at Goodison, beat Leicester City, aside from one alteration - Mangala for Phil Jagielka. That meant recalls for both Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney, who wore the captain’s armband. Also back in the team at right-back was Coleman, making just his second start since recovering from a fractured leg. Davies was another player promoted to the first XI following his lively second-half run-out at the Emirates the previous Saturday.
Everton looked the team most likely in the early exchanges but Goodison held its breath when, on six minutes, Mangala under-hit a backpass forcing Jordan Pickford to race out of his area. The goalkeeper’s hurried clearance landed at the feet of Yohan Cabaye whose shot from 45 yards was fortunately well wide of the target.
Sigurdsson showed quick feet to then create an opening for himself and he was unlucky to see his crisply-struck drive zip up off the wet turf and fly a yard or so past the upright. Eagles midfielder Milivojevic was a off-target by a similar margin too as both sides traded chances.
A noticeable early characteristic in Everton’s play was Rooney’s willingness to sit deep, just in front of centre-back pairing of Michael Keane and Mangala, and launch his team’s attacks with his vision and wide range of passing. Walcott had netted twice against Leicester City in his previous appearance at Goodison and his movement on the right, both down the touchline and cutting inside, also caught the eye.
The closest the hosts came to nudging ahead in the first half was when Wales international keeper Wayne Hennessey produced a fantastic low save to prevent Gana from scoring his second league goal of the campaign. From a half-cleared corner, the midfielder hammered a shot that was destined for the net, only for Hennessey to use his reach to full effect and claw it out.
Everton were the team to offer more threat, the side that pressed and probed, without anything falling to the hard-working Niasse and his fellow attackers in front of goal. The first half stats showed the Toffees had occupied nearly two-thirds of possession, yet had nothing to show for it.
Pickford reached the break having been relatively untroubled, aside from a scooped low save he needed to make when Cabaye struck another long-range shot. He was also required to vigilantly watch Christian Benteke guide a header wide of the post.
The Blues did suffer a setback on the stroke of half-time when Mangala’s home debut was curtailed early with what appeared to be a knee injury, with Ashley Williams the replacement at the back. Another defensive change was needed before the restart as Jonjoe Kenny reappeared in place of Coleman.
Forty-five seconds into the second half, Sigurdsson bagged his deadlock-breaking goal. From a deep pass, Niasse put James Tomkins under pressure and laid the bouncing ball into the path of the Icelander, who took one touch before burying an effort into the bottom corner of the Gwladys Street net.
Five minutes later, the lead was doubled courtesy of Niasse’s planted six-yard header. Sigurdsson was this time involved in the build-up, recycling play from Kenny’s cross. Davies then released marauding left-back Martina who teed-up Niasse with a precise, chipped pass.
Understandably, Everton then had to deal with a response from Crystal Palace. Luck was on the Blues’ side too when Benteke escaped at the far post and nodded inches wide.
Palace had lined up with two big centre-forwards and Pickford did excellently to fly to his right and push away another header, this time from Benteke’s strike partner Alexander Sorloth.
After weathering that spell, Everton crusaded on to victory, with the three points wrapped up via the left boot of Davies a quarter of an hour before the end.
The midfielder pounced eight yards out, volleying home after Sigurdsson had managed to cut the ball back from the byline.
The Blues looked set to claim a first clean sheet since Boxing Day’s 0-0 draw at West Brom, only to see it snatched away from their grasp on 82 minutes. After referee Jon Moss saw a handball from Williams, up stepped Milivojevic to reduce the deficit despite Pickford getting a hand to his spot-kick.
But Everton more than deserved their win, and comfortably held on to claim a morale-boosting three points.