Gylfi Sigurdsson scored twice in the second half either side of a Cenk Tosun header to earn Everton a valuable Goodison Park victory over Fulham.
Sigurdsson thudded the bar with a penalty seven minutes after half-time but made amends on 56 minutes with a beautifully-executed low finish from 18 yards.
Turkey international striker Tosun, on as a substitute, headed home from inches out 10 minutes later after being found by Theo Walcott’s drifted right-wing delivery. And Sigurdsson's tidy penalty-box finish with one minute to play wrapped up the three points.
Fulham had the game's first genuine chance, Andre Schurrle blazing over a gilt-edged opening on 12 minutes. Fulham’s teenage winger Ryan Sessegnon carried the ball into the area and chopped back to wrong-foot Michael Keane before rolling a pass to German Schurrle. He was leaning back as he shot, however, and ballooned over from 12 yards.
Everton had already broken forward for their first sighter by this stage, Sigurdsson swapping passes with Richarlison but dragging his effort off target.
Aleksandar Mitrovic fired high and wide after an extended hiatus following an injury to Fulham defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah, whose shoulder bore the weight of the Dutchman’s mighty frame as he landed awkwardly by the touchline.
Everton reacted to coughing up Schurrle’s opportunity by carving open Fulham three times in a matter of minutes.
Kurt Zouma had gone a fraction too early when he brought a reaction stop from Marcus Bettinelli after meeting Lucas Digne’s free-kick to the back post on the slide – the French defender’s movement attracting a linesman’s flag.
Cyrus Christie, on for Fosu-Mensah, diverted a strike from Richarlison wide after the winger had been fed high up the pitch by Idrissa Gana Gueye. Next to have a pop, following another Gana pass, was Walcott whose low 20-yard drive was half-fielded by Fulham goalkeeper Bettinelli, centre-back Denis Odoi first to react and clear.
Odoi did enough to foil Dominic Calvert-Lewin at the near post after some incisive link-up play down Everton’s right – Jonjoe Kenny, Sigurdsson and Walcott all in on the act - ended with attacker Walcott swatting in a delivery which Calvert-Lewin was straining to glance across goal.
Sessegnon could, perhaps should, have put the visitors on the scoreboard four minutes before the break.
The mobile Jean Michel Seri demonstrated noteworthy turn of pace to ease beyond Everton’s midfield. He spied a Fulham overload to his left and fed the ball in that direction.
Luciano Vietto received a call from Sessegnon and got out of the teenager’s road. Jordan Pickford stood tall and Sessegnon’s attempt to beat the ‘keeper high in his goal saw the ball thud into the bar.
Keane’s aerial prowess fashioned a presentable chance for Richarlison three minutes after the restart.
Keane, whose threat in opposing penalty boxes has visibly increased this term – something the player attributes to extra training ground work with Everton coach Duncan Ferguson – leapt to head on a corner from Sigurdsson.
The ball was slightly behind Richarlison, who wrapped his leg around it but was unable to keep his effort below the bar.
Sigurdsson wobbled the same bar from the spot minutes later but achieved redemption in no time.
Everton’s penalty on 52 minutes was awarded by the linesman after he spotted the fast-chasing Odoi nudge Calvert-Lewin in the small of the striker’s back.
Sigurdsson hit the bar after a delay while Belgian Odoi was booked – but the same two men were very swiftly involved once more.
Odoi could only clear Kenny’s cut back as far as Icelander Sigurdsson on the right corner of the box. Approaching the ball at an angle, he caressed the most sumptuous strike beyond Bettinelli and inside the far post.
Fulham broke rapidly on the hour, creating a two-v-one. Schurrle held up his end of the deal by squaring precisely for the onrushing Vietto. His touch failed him, however, giving Pickford sufficient encouragement to dash out and save at the forward’s feet.
And before long Tosun, essentially, killed the game, when he headed home a perfectly-flighted cross from Walcott.
Walcott had a chance to add gloss to the scoreline when he dribbled skilfully into Fulham’s box only for Bettinelli to save the forward’s cross-shot down to his right.
As it was, Sigurdsson provided the sheen, driving forward to provide a passing option for Bernard, patiently holding the ball in the box, and showing tremendous poise to score low into the net.
Men of Substance
A penny for Gylfi Sigurdsson’s thoughts as he watched his penalty come back off the bar and bobble to safety.
In fact, we probably don’t need to shell out to discover what was going through the player’s head.
And if there was any doubt, it was pretty clear he was bent on making amends when Sigurdsson galloped forward to earn a corner seconds after his miss.
Sigurdsson actually missed a penalty for Iceland at the World Cup, too. In the very next match, and with his nation’s hopes dangling by a thread, Iceland were awarded another spot kick.
Sigurdsson did not consider shying away from the responsibility and buried his effort.
Here his shot at immediate redemption was largely the product of his own industry and craft. Sigurdsson’s return pass for Jonjoe Kenny was perfectly weighted, eliminating a handful of opposing defenders and releasing Everton’s right-back.
When the ball came back out to him via the boot of Denis Odoi, Sigurdsson’s technique was perfect to send his finish into the bottom corner. He wheeled away ecstatic - but not considering his job done.
As substitute Bernard held up the ball in the game's final minutes, it was Sigurdsson showing the desire to enter the box and the class to score to Marcus Bettinelli's left.
Cenk Tosun showed his mettle, too. The striker started on the bench here, six days after being consigned to the same duty at Arsenal.
Did he allow his head to drop? Not for a second. The Turk replaced Dominic Calvert-Lewin on 55 minutes. Eleven minutes later he was making a beeline for the back post where his run was spotted by Theo Walcott.
When Tosun headed home he was submerged by his teammates. A popular goal for a popular man.
Key Man Idrissa
Plenty of words spoken lately regarding the influence of Idrissa Gana Gueye on this Everton team.
Former Blues skipper Don Hutchison watched the spirited Senegalese taming Arsenal’s central duo Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira last week and promptly declared Gana an integral component of Marco Silva’s purposeful side.
A team built for expression and creativity, reasoned Hutchison, requires an expert defensive shield to act as its belt and braces.
Gana entered the game having made 27 tackles this term – three more than any other Premier League player.
It was 28 after two minutes – although as he bit into a ferocious challenge on Jean Michael Seri deep in Everton territory you felt the effort should have counted double.
Two minutes later Luciano Vietto’s attempt to slice through the heart of the home team was balked by the sliding Gana. Fast forward a few seconds and the Everton player, a blur of blue and white, was sprinting over halfway to put the squeeze on Fulham midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Gana’s work went beyond spiking Fulham’s creative ambitions. Anguissa’s spirit was drained when his explosive burst was thwarted by a lunging Gana. While the Fulham player tracked back with little enthusiasm for his task, Gana surged away to rap a pass into Richarlison, the Brazilian eventually having a shot deflected wide by substitute Cyrus Christie
There was another agile challenge on 25 minutes, Gana stretching out his left leg to dispossess Argentine Vietto, shortly after being one of the first men on the scene as the same visiting attacker tried to counter from an Everton corner.
By half-time, Gana had added six tackles to his tally for the campaign. He had drained Fulham of a degree of their intent, wearied the visitors’ legs, too.
And how Everton capitalised. Gana, too, in fact. He had not long rattled Joe Bryan with another shuddering challenge when he won the ball deep in his own half and set the wheels in motion on the move which ended with Sigurdsson scoring his second and Everton's third goal.
As for the numbers, nine tackles and six interceptions for Gana here.
Jonjoe Kenny was playing his third Premier League match on the bounce and pitted into direct competition with one of English football’s golden boys in Ryan Sessegnon.
Kenny, though, three times a major tournament winner with his country’s age-group teams, possesses plenty of pedigree himself.
The right-back, schooled in Everton’s Academy, confesses it took him a few games in his breakthrough campaign last season to find his Premier League legs.
Once he was on a sure footing, Kenny emerged as one of the Blues’ brighter performers in 2017-18 – a fact recognised by Evertonians who picked him as their young player of the year.
He channelled that valuable experience into making a fast start when he got the shout against West Ham United this term.
And after putting in a performance at Arsenal last week deemed worthy of man-of-the-match honours by Everton ambassador Graham Stuart, Kenny defended typically assiduously here.
He was patient and alert in a one-on-one with Sessegnon before whipping the ball off the winger’s toes. One sliding tackle on Luciano Vietto was perfect in its execution, leaving the on loan Atletico Madrid player in a heap and the ball at Kenny’s feet.
If we have come to take Kenny’s dependability in his own half as a given, then the player is keen to express himself in opposition territory, too.
As instructed by manager Marco Silva he advances whenever opportunity allows and is extremely comfortable dovetailing with the quick-thinking Theo Walcott.
Kenny’s decision making in his opponents’ half is generally spot on, opting for the short pass when a cross into the box is not on – or simply running intelligently to create space for Walcott and the roaming Gylfi Sigurdsson.
When he does spy men in the penalty area, Kenny’s delivery is confident and accurate.
Kenny’s contribution to Everton gaining the ascendancy was absolutely essential His thinking was sharp to retrieve the ball and take a quick throw.
As the ball arrived with Sigurdsson, Kenny was sprinting forward for the return. His cross panicked the ubiquitous Odoi into the clearance which Sigurdsson returned with interest.
And it was Kenny who unzipped Fulham again for Everton’s second. His pass freed Walcott to race down the right and land the ball on Cenk Tosun’s head.
With Seamus Coleman due back training this week, Everton boast rich pickings in the right-back slot.