Wayne Rooney’s 48-minute hat-trick – capped by a stunning strike from his own half - lit up Goodison Park and propelled Everton to an uplifting and valuable 4-0 victory over West Ham United.
Rooney completed his first Blues treble midway through the second half in the most glorious fashion, when he swooped on goalkeeper Joe Hart’s clearance over the halfway line to send a tracer bullet of a shot into the goal vacated by the Hammers’ number one.
The former England captain had headed home the rebound after his 18th-minute penalty was kept out by Hart to get Everton up and running.
And 10 minutes later, the former England captain sprinted into the box to meet Tom Davies’, low right-wing cross and sweep home.
Ashley Williams crowned David Unsworth’s valedictory night as Toffees boss with a skilful headed goal 12 minutes before the end.
There was an edge to Everton’s early football. Aaron Lennon and Dominic Calvert-Lewin defended tenaciously from the front. At the back, Williams and Mason Holgate adopted a front-foot approach to their defending.
It was Williams stepping out from defence, beating Marko Arnautovic to the punch, and slipping a pass left to Cuco Martina that set the Toffees away on their first attack of note.
Davies was unable to gather Martina’s cross into his stride, but there was a sense of Everton grabbing the initiative.
And four minutes later, the hosts had precious currency to cling to. Calvert-Lewin’s direct, purposeful running had already been bothering the Hammers – the striker put the wind up Winston Reid, in particular, when he chased down a terrific ball over the top from Rooney to keep play alive on the visitors’ byline.
West Ham dug themselves out of trouble on that occasion. But they could not wriggle off the hook when the ball alighted with Calvert-Lewin on 17 minutes.
Possession actually arrived with the striker via the right boot of Hammers midfielder Pedro Obiang. It would be wrong, though, to overlook the contribution of Gylfi Sigurdsson, who collected Rooney’s penetrating pass and turned all in one movement to buy himself space in a congested midfield.
Sigurdsson’s fabulous piece of skill suddenly forced West Ham’s midfielders to switch into high-alert mode. Spaniard Obiang, you suspect, was still making the transition when he jabbed a foot in to tackle Sigurdsson and inadvertently nudged the ball towards his own goal and, fatally, in to the path of Calvert-Lewin.
Hart hurtled from his line to meet the onrushing Everton forward, but with Calvert-Lewin astutely knocking the ball to the goalkeeper’s left, the sprawling Hart only succeeded in wiping out his opponent.
Not one player in claret and blue appealed when referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. Nor did they react as quickly as Rooney when Hart, diving to his right, beat out the Everton skipper’s penalty.
England number one Hart, therefore, was utterly helpless as Rooney nodded the ball into an unguarded net.
Hart’s premier rival for the national team gloves, Jordan Pickford, had actually got his gloves dirty for the first time in the seconds preceding Everton’s breakthrough, the Toffees’ keeper authoritatively snaffling a cross from overlapping right-back Pablo Zabaleta.
The combative Zabaleta went into the book on 26 minutes for crudely dumping Sigurdsson to the turf.
And two minutes later, the Toffees doubled their lead.
The excellent Jonjoe Kenny strode on to Lennon’s pass infield and marauded forward to slip a pass out to Davies, occupying an ocean of space on the right flank.
Davies, playing here after serving a one-match ban at Southampton on Sunday, had an age to assess his options.
He chose the banker: Rooney, careering in at the back post, his marker Cheikhou Kouyate treading water in the midfielder’s slipstream.
Whereas Rooney had needed two bites of the cherry 10 minutes earlier, just the one sufficed this time and after adjusting his stride to allow for the advancing Kenny’s touch, the 32—year-old facilely rolled the ball home for his sixth Premier League goal this term.
The Toffees had a decent looking penalty shout waved away by Oliver after Arnautovic carelessly bundled into Calvert-Lewin, while another spot-kick appeal - when Aaron Cresswell and Davies came together, innocuously it must be said – went unheeded.
Cresswell went about his work in rather more tidy fashion to prevent an intelligent Lennon pass from releasing Davies as Everton, their tails up, went for the goal that would have conclusively squashed the visitors’ morale underfoot.
As it was, West Ham summoned something of a response in the half’s closing minutes. Kenny defended exceptionally at the back post to head away Cresswell’s dipping right-wing free-kick.
Manuel Lanzini’s subsequent corner was equally menacing and it needed a firm swipe of Martina’s boot to snuff out the danger.
Hammers boss David Moyes withdrew midfielder Obiang in favour of striker Diafra Sakho at the break. And his team instantly looked all the better for it.
West Ham steadily built up a head of steam and, with the second half five minutes old, Pickford was forced to punch away a stinging drive from Lanzini.
The keeper’s intervention didn’t entirely spell the end of the Hammers’ attack. The away side circulated possession, with Cresswell eventually finding room to take aim from the left of the box.
The defender’s rising drive clipped the top of the bar – and sent hearts aflutter all around Goodison.
Arnautovic was the next visiting player to find himself in a promising spot, courtesy of a fortunate deflection off the unwitting Lennon.
The Austrian forward seemed a little surprised to find himself with the whites of the goal in his eyes. Which would explain his hesitation, as he struggled to shift the ball out of his feet, before stabbing a shot at goal that was easily snaffled by Pickford.
Pickford’s next contribution, however, was more dramatic altogether.
Sakho got on Williams’ wrong side in Everton’s box, drawing an ill-judged challenge from the Welshman.
Oliver – correctly - awarded his second penalty of the night.
Lanzini took it. It was a decent effort, too. Decent does not beat Pickford from 12 yards, though.
The Everton number one was a mere spectator when he last faced a penalty at the Sir Philip Carter Park End – Watford’s Tom Cleverley dragging his shot wildly off target.
Lanzini’s radar was more accurate, his strike destined for the bottom left corner. Pickford, however, launched himself across his goal to meet the ball with two strong hands and push it to safety.
Rooney, meanwhile, swiftly ensured it would be his name up in lights on the night. Calvert-Lewin deserves credit for his chasing, which forced Hart to hare from his box to clear.
The goalkeeper on-loan from Manchester City didn’t do a great deal wrong. He just had the misfortune to direct the ball to Rooney.
In this mood, the Everton man truly believes anything is possible. So it was, that from 59 yards, he unleashed a strike that was both brutal and beautiful in its execution. The ball was still travelling at some lick when it hit the back of the net.
“I am not sure I have ever struck a ball better,” Rooney would confess post-match.
Everton, now, were rampant. Reid slid in to block Calvert-Lewin’s close-range clip after some terrific combination play between Kenny and Davies down the right.
And from the resultant corner, the Toffees scored their fourth.
Sigurdsson swung the dead ball to the near-post, where Williams nipped in front of substitute Declan Rice to skilfully plant his header across Hart and in to the net.
Rooney took his curtain call not long after, receiving a belting ovation as he made way for Beni Baningime.
The loudest cheers of the night, though? They were reserved for Unsworth, whose name periodically boomed around Goodison during the second 45 minutes.
He acknowledged the chants. He even allowed himself a smile, eventually. My, how he had earned it.