Shayne Lavery scored in second-half stoppage time as Everton Under-23s secured a dramatic 2-1 win over Swansea City on Friday evening.
In a game the young Blues dominated for long spells, the Swans broke the deadlock against the run of play when Jordon Garrick’s heavily-deflected strike crept in on the hour mark.
But Francis Jeffers’ determined side responded in perfect fashion, as Luke Garbutt equalised from the penalty spot before Lavery finished with aplomb from close range to earn all three points in south Wales.
Both sides began energetically but it was the hosts that threatened first when the ball fell kindly for striker Courtney Baker-Richardson on the right corner of the penalty area.
Fortunately for the Blues, captain Morgan Feeney was on hand to provide a vital block, before centre-back partner Matty Foulds headed away the resulting corner.
The Swans then forced the first save of the evening after quarter of an hour, as winger Liam Cullen stung the palms of goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt with a half volley from a similar area as Baker-Richardson’s earlier opportunity.
The Toffees grew into the half, however, and fashioned their first meaningful chance when Harry Charsley - once again deployed in a more unfamiliar role of right-back - superbly controlled Jose Baxter’s cross-field free-kick, cut in from the flank and forced Swans custodian Gregor Zabret into a smart save to his right with a left-footed shot that was destined for the bottom corner.
A well worked free-kick routine saw Baxter presented with a chance midway through the opening half, but his clipped shot from the edge of the penalty area sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.
Seemingly buoyed by Jeffers’ half-time team talk, the Toffees began the second period with added intensity from the first whistle.
Harry Charsley set the tone with a well-timed interception in the opening seconds, before Evans - who was lively throughout - went close with a 25-yard drive moments later.
An Everton counter-attack then nearly paid dividends, but a slightly under-hit pass forced Josh Bowler to check back inside and his eventual shot drifted wide of the target.
The opening goal came the hour mark, when Jordon Garrick’s strike from eight yards took a heavy deflection before creeping past Hewelt.
Undeterred, the Blues came forward again and skipper Feeney nearly provided an instant response from Garbutt’s corner - but Zabret was on hand to provide an acrobatic save to keep out the defender’s downward header.
A deserved equaliser came with 16 minutes remaining. Bowler provided a slide-rule pass for substitute Shayne Lavery - and the Northern Ireland Under-21 international was fouled by Cian Harries just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Garbutt stepped up to expertly dispatch the spot-kick into the bottom right corner of the goal to restore parity.
Both teams were forced to play the closing stages with 10 men after Swansea’s Brandon Cooper was dismissed for a high tackle and then Baxter was forced off with an injury after all three substitutes had been made.
The decisive moment came deep into added time, when Josh Bowler slipped in substitute Fraser Hornby down the right channel. The Under-18s regular picked out fellow substitute Lavery, who controlled first time before smashing home into the roof of the net to spark jubilant scenes amongst the Everton players and staff.
Next up for the Under-23s is a return to Checkatrade Trophy action with a trip to Mansfield Town on Tuesday (31 October).
Everton Under-23s: Hewelt, Charsley, Garbutt, Adeniran, Feeney (c), Foulds, Evans (Donkor, 76), Baxter, Sambou (Hornby, 71), Broadhead (Lavery, 71), Bowler.
Unused substitutes: Hilton, Markelo.
Swansea City Under-23s: Zabret, Reid, Lewis, Evans (Maric, 62), Harries, Cooper, Cullen, Fulton, Baker-Richardson (Gorre, 72), King (c), Garrick.
Unused substitutes: Thomas, Blair, Lewis.