Gylfi Sigurdsson’s second-half strike secured Everton’s fourth Goodison Park victory on the spin and lifted Marco Silva’s side up to sixth in the Premier League table.
Icelander Sigurdsson rolled the ball home on 59 minutes after Theo Walcott’s effort was saved by Neil Etheridge, breaking the resistance of a doughty Cardiff City outfit.
Moments earlier Sigurdsson had seen a shot cleared off the line as Everton steadily ramped up the pressure on Neil Warnock’s team.
Cardiff would unquestionably have gone in at half-time the more satisfied of the two teams. Perhaps the more relived, too, after Lucas Digne went down under contact from Kadeem Harris in the box moments before the whistle, the Frenchman, who had sped forward to fasten onto a pass from Richarlison, incandescent when his penalty pleas went unheeded.
It was that sort of half for the home team, Everton’s performance not wanting for industry but the hosts unable to locate a telling finish to some decent enough approach play.
Certainly, it was the Blues who carried all the threat, Cardiff striker Callum Paterson routinely separated from his nine outfield teammates by 20 yards, or so – and the source of his side’s only first-half attempt; a shot scuffed wide from 20 yards.
Moreover, Everton could not be accused of lacking the gumption to vary things up in an attempt to crack the visitors’ rigid structure.
At one point early in the contest, we had the sight of Yerry Mina remaining up front following a set-piece and fellow South American Bernard – roughly a foot shorter than Mina – filling in at centre-half.
Andre Gomes took it on his shoulders to try to force the issue. The Portuguese barrelled past challenges from Harry Arter and Sol Bamba before thumping a shot into the side netting on 29 minutes.
And with the interval looming, Portuguese Gomes powered his way beyond right-back Bruno Ecuele Manga to send over a wicked cross which reached Walcott at the back post.
Walcott, though - in an echo of an earlier passage of play when the winger couldn’t make clean contact on a Bernard delivery – saw the ball late and could only jab out a leg and divert it wide.
Everton’s most creative work was coming through the middle of the park. Idrissa Gana Gueye made one burst though the middle but dragged his eventual effort wide.
And on 40 minutes Richarlison pulled off the back of Ecuele Manga but could only direct his header from Sigurdsson’s free-kick into the gloves of goalkeeper Etheridge.
Sigurdsson’s sublime turn just past the half hour dazed Aron Gunnarsson, leaving the Cardiff midfielder on his backside and perhaps generating a topic of conversation when the pair next join up with Iceland.
The Everton player’s work wasn’t just for show, though, Sigurdsson instigating an attack which ended with Bamba getting a leg in the way of Walcott’s thumping strike.
Sigurdsson struck over after good play from Richarlison down the left soon after the restart.
And it felt as if Everton were steadily applying their foot to the visitors’ throats.
On The Ball
Mina galloped over halfway to find Bernard on the left and continued his run all the way into the box. Bernard chose instead to slip a cute pass into Sigurdsson who rounded Etheridge but had his shot smashed off the line by defender Bamba.
Cardiff’s reprieve – in common with Sigurdsson’s frustration – was extremely short lived.
Walcott bolted onto a loose ball on halfway and showed Gunnarsson a clean pair of heels, the forward progressing into the box and forcing Etheridge to paw the ball out to his right.
There was Sigurdsson, Johnnie-on-the spot, to stroke the ball into an unattended net.
Cardiff responded by progressively adding more numbers to their attacks. There was a little more devil to the visitors’ offensive play, too, Harris booked for careering into Jordan Pickford.
The Cardiff player was withdrawn not long after and watching from the bench when Pickford saved to his right from Victor Camarasa’s nicely-hit shot from distance.
Ademola Lookman and Cenk Tosun replaced Walcott and Bernard respectively as Silva sought to inject fresh legs into his attack – and turn the tide back in the Toffees' favour.
And Lookman – much as he did after coming on at Chelsea a fortnight ago – wriggled his way through a gap which did not seem to exist before drawing Etheridge into his best stop of the afternoon.
Paterson headed over from underneath the bar – while the thick end of 40,000 people shifted uncomfortably in their seats – following a Joe Ralls’ free-kick on 89 minutes.
And there remained time for Richarlison to force Etheridge into another sharp stop with a precise right-foot strike across the keeper. Time, too, for Digne to make an absolutely vital block from substitute Josh Murphy's drive deep into stoppage time and seal Everton's passage up the Premier League table.
In the blink of an eye Marco Silva has created an Everton team wedded to a model which demands they play expansive and courageous football.
Other Premier League teams have cottoned onto this in correspondingly quick time.
Consequently, a game at Goodison Park presents Everton with the age-old problem encountered by very good football teams playing on their own ground.
Opponents – in particular those beneath the teams competing for Champions League qualification – will be cock-a-hoop to clamber aboard the coach for home with a point to accompany them on their journey.
Roughly midway through the first half Everton had dominated possession to the extent their visitors had been on the ball for 18 per cent of the match.
Everton’s share of it did not drop below 70 per cent all afternoon.
Silva’s team, then, are needing to add patience to their growing list of attributes.
Their past three home games – against Fulham, Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion - have all been level going into the break.
As was the case here, though, Everton controlled the action during the opening 45 minutes, dictating the tempo and circulating possession.
The chasing and concentration required to keep pace with this is draining. Everton, to use a cliché, allow the ball to do the work – or rest in possession, if you prefer.
To capitalise on this type of superiority, though, requires cool heads all round. And, for the fourth home match in succession, there was no sense of panic whatsoever from Silva’s side as they prodded and probed.
Sure enough, gaps started to appear, errors began creeping into Cardiff’s work. Walcott was first to the punch on halfway, free to escape when he would previously have met greater resistance.
And Sigurdsson, formerly requiring all his nous to find space, was left alone eight yards from goal to convert.
It was similar against Brighton when a resolute team – and a good defender in Lewis Dunk – erred in the closing 15 minutes and allowed Richarlison to wrap up those three points.
Cardiff have scored first only once in the Premier League this season. The Bluebirds, in fact, had conceded in the opening half of six of the eight games they lost before coming to Goodison Park.
It was somewhat inevitable, then, that Neil Warnock would prioritise defensive solidity over any form of derring-do.
Perhaps appropriately on an afternoon when former world cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew was afforded a pre-match ovation, Warnock could be considered to be adopting a rope-a-dope tactic.
For that ploy to work, you need to withstand everything your opponent chucks at you. And Cardiff were up for the fight, no question.
As Bellew would attest, though, sometimes, your foe lands a blow you are powerless to resist.
Everton had waited for their moment, familiar now with trying to apply death by a thousand cuts.
Theo Walcott – not long recovered from a knock he suffered early in the second half – exploded onto the ball on halfway. Aron Gunnarsson was in a race he would not win if he had 100 goes at it.
The midfielder watched Walcott race away but would have felt a slither of hope when Neil Etheridge repelled the Everton player’s effort.
It is the hope, though, which kills you. And Sigurdsson, thwarted not long before by Sean Morrison’s goalline clearance, turned in, flooring Cardiff in the process.
It has been quite the fortnight for Richarlison, the Everton attacker whose reputation is tracking a sharp and consistent upwards curve.
The 21-year-old’s ears would have been burning on occasion during the international break, with Neymar’s praise for Richarlison followed by more kind words from Brazil manager Tite.
And, crucially, Richarlison’s performances for Brazil served to demonstrate why he has won such favour with both his superstar colleague and national team boss.
He followed up a cameo bristling with quality and purpose in a victory over Uruguay by channelling his inner Duncan Ferguson to crash home a headed goal and win the midweek game with Cameroon.
If Richarlison returned to Goodison Park on a high, he came to earth with an almighty wallop early on when Cardiff defender Sol Bamba propelled his herculean frame through the back of Everton’s South American star.
This is where Richarlison comes into his own. He hogs headlines because of his goalscoring and direct dribbling, for the imaginative flicks and smart running.
If you want to mix it with him, though, Richarlison will engage you in a physical battle. No problem at all. He tackles the ‘grunt work’ with the same relish he would apply to swiping his left foot through the ball for a shot at goal.
Even before he became the recipient of Bamba’s enthusiastic challenge, Richarlison had reacted to misplacing a pass by haring back deep into his own half to make amends.
Previous mention of his left foot should not detract from the ability he carries in his right boot, either. One right-footed pass to switch play to Seamus Coleman, hurtling forwards on the overlap, was delivered as if loaded with an internal tracking system.
If we admire Richarlison’s ceaseless industry, then we are repeatedly thrilled by his ingenuity.
His spin on the edge of the box on the stroke of half-time was delicious, the weight of pass for Lucas Digne perfect.
He would have had his seventh goal of the campaign here, too, but for a smart stop from Etheridge in the last minute. In the final reckoning, though, it did not matter a jot.