Everton's unhappy history in the League Cup continues as they exit the competition in the third round at Middlesbrough, losing 5-4 on penalties after a goalless draw.
Another stalemate follows at home to Manchester City but, with performances improving, the Blues maintain hopes of an upturn as they come from behind to record their first away success of the season, 2-1 at a rain-swept Portsmouth.
Lee Carsley equalises before Rooney scores the winner with his first league goal since August.
It is a similar story the following week at home to Leicester as Rooney comes off the bench, scores, and the Blues fight back to win 3-2, Radzinski volleying the winner.
Boxing Day brings no festive cheer as Everton lose 3-2 at Manchester United - Ferguson's late headed goal his first since his return to the squad - and Everton announce a freeze on all contract talks until the summer.
But they at least end the year with something to celebrate as Rooney nets the only goal at home to Birmingham in the Blues' final outing of 2003.