Everton v Bolton
Mikel Arteta led Everton's charge as the Blues extended their run of consecutive home league victories to seven.
The Spanish playmaker produced a trademark free-kick to set Everton on the road to victory in a keenly fought contest with Owen Coyle's rejuvenated Bolton side.
His goal came with 19 minutes left to play - and from a free-kick earned after a professional foul by Gretar Steinsson on Yakubu reduced the visitors to 10 men.
The scale of the winning margin was doubled in the 89th minute by Steven Pienaar and ensured there was no need for last-minute nail-biting on an afternoon that had, for so long, been a frustrating one.
After the disappointment of the 2-2 draw at Birmingham, the three points ensured David Moyes' men leap-frogged Alex McLeish's side to move into eighth position with eight games remaining.
With seventh spot likely to secure qualification for Europe - and Aston Villa failing to win - it proved a profitable afternoon for the Blues ahead of tricky away trips to Manchester City and Wolves.
So whilst the home side may not have displayed the attacking verve of recent home outings, the points may prove invaluable.
It seemed unlikely that the Toffees would have to wait so long for the goals, however, thanks to a bright opening five minutes.
Indeed, Victor Anichebe should have put the Blues ahead with the first chance of the game. He was played through by an intelligent ball from Tim Cahill but as he surged into the penalty area a well timed challenge from Paul Robinson denied the Nigerian international a shot on goal.
It was a glimpse of the forward's threat. But his presence in the game was shortlived - forced off by a hip injury picked up in another collision with Robinson after 10 minutes. He was eventually replaced by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.
It was the main talking point of a first-half that failed to live up to billing after a series of eye-catching home performances from David Moyes' men. They enjoyed long spells of possession but the combination of a well-organised Bolton defence and some misplaced passing contrived to frustrate the home side.
A Kevin Davies free-kick midway through the opening period tested Tim Howard - but there was little else from the visitors to threaten the home side during the first 30 minutes. But the cutting edge of the visitors improved as the break approached, with a fierce Tamir Cohen effort flying over the bar before a free-flowing move culminated in Davies denied by a brave block from the Blues' keeper.
Everton started the second period displaying greater attacking thrust - as a Jussi Jaaskelainen stop from a Yakubu effort illustrated in the 51st minute.
Heitinga tested the keeper from distance and Yakubu was unlucky not to connect to a drilled Mikel Arteta cross. But with the match still goalless as it entered the final third, the Goodison manager opted to withdraw Cahill - who had picked up a caution in the opening half - in order to partner Yakubu with the fit-again Louis Saha.
But it was a defender who provided the next real test for Jaaskelainen, Phil Jagielka meeting an Arteta free-kick with his head. His effort was just too close to the Bolton keeper.
With 20 minutes left on the clock a swift counter-attack culminated with Yakubu beating the offside trap to charge goalwards. A clumsy challenge from Gretar Steinsson halted his run and earned the Bolton man a straight red card.
To add insult to injury, from the free-kick that followed Everton finally broke the deadlock. It was a tantalising effort from 22 yards from Arteta that flew over the wall and left Jaaskelainen rooted to the spot as it found the top left corner of the net.
To suggest there was an air of relief inside Goodison Park would be something of an understatement.
Zat Knight headed over the bar with 15 minutes remaining to issue a reminder the points were still not safe. But the introduction of Leon Osman in place of Yakubu added further authority to the midfield as the home side maintained a tight grip on their one goal advantage.
In the final stages Bilyaletdinov headed over, Saha forced Jaaskelainen into action from distance and, unbelievably, Leon Osman contrived to hit the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
Ultimately, however, that miss did not matter - thanks to Pienaar's late strike in the 89th minute.
After brilliant work by Osman on the right, the South African had the simple task of drilling the ball home from 10 yards with Bolton's defence stranded.
It provided a gloss to the scoreline which will be appreciated. Now the focus turns to the trip to the City of Manchester Stadium - and the continuing mission to close the gap on the sides occupying the top seven.