Everton v Swansea City
Everton beat Swansea City 3-2 at fortress Goodison to make it eight straight victories on home soil for the first time since the 1985/86 campaign.
Two goals in the space of five second-half minutes from Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley secured maximum points, elevating the Blues above Tottenham Hotspur into fifth place in the table.
Roberto Martinez’s side had earlier found themselves level pegging at the interval after Wilfried Bony cancelled out Leighton Baines’ penalty.
Swansea pulled a goal back deep into stoppage time through Ashley Williams’ header.
The result ensured Everton completed a hat-trick of victories over the South Wales club for the season, following successes at the Liberty Stadium in December and in the FA Cup meeting last month. It also continued the Toffees' record of never losing to their cross-border visitors.
Martinez made two changes from the victory over Cardiff a week earlier as Aiden McGeady stepped in to take the place of Gerard Deulofeu and Barkley was preferred over Leon Osman.
The first chance of the game arrived inside the opening minute when Bony was fractionally off-target with a skidding low drive from the edge of the area.
But Everton soon found their feet, and after spending the opening exchanges patiently pressing and probing, Martinez’s men took the lead in the 20th minute through Baines’ perfectly-dispatched penalty.
The Blues mounted a two-on-two attack after John Stones swept the ball out to Barkley, who powered into the area and was clumsily tripped by defender Chico Flores.
It was a stonewall spot-kick and Baines did the honours from 12 yards in front of the Park End – the second time he had scored from a penalty against the Swans at Goodison this season, following his goal in the FA Cup meeting.
Swansea responded well from the setback, and after Jose Canas spurned a half-decent chance to level, Bony did make it 1-1 on 32 minutes.
A well-worked move saw Wayne Routledge pick out right-back Angel Rangel with a diagonal lofted pass over the Blues’ defence. The Spaniard then delivered a low centre and Bony, inside the six-yard box, tapped home his 19th goal of the campaign.
The equaliser gave the visitors a shot in the arm and they finished the first half strongly with Nathan Dyer and Pablo Hernandez, from a deflected free-kick, both going close.
Half-time offered Everton a chance to regain some composure and they emerged at the restart with much more purpose.
Lukaku tested Michel Vorm with a long-range attempt and the Swansea keeper again saved well when a loose ball fell at the feet of Sylvain Distin.
However, there was very little the Dutch stopper could do when Lukaku prodded Everton in front for a second time on 53 minutes.
The striker weaved across the edge of the penalty area, played a pass out to compatriot Kevin Mirallas, continued his run and then stabbed home the return pass from close-range.
And two became three moments later when Barkley netted his first league goal since the corresponding meeting at the Liberty Stadium in December to effectively decide the game in Everton’s favour.
Mirallas was again the provider as his inswinging corner from the left drifted through the six-yard box leaving Barkley, who had been left totally unmarked by Canas, free to plant a low header into the bottom corner of the net.
Swansea refused to lie down and Bony came close to halving the deficit on 64 minutes, only to see Tim Howard produce an acrobatic diving save.
But, with the visitors pushing forward in search of a way back into the game, Everton were always able to counter.
Having assisted twice, Mirallas should have got his name on the scoresheet midway through the second period when he broke clear down the right and attempted a delicate chip over Vorm, who read the Belgian’s finish and saved well.
McGeady could have extended the lead with a shot that rose over the bar and Everton again had to be thankful to Howard when he raced from his line to deny Hernandez.
The Spaniard provided the corner which culminated in the visitors’ second goal of the game deep into stoppage time but by then Everton had done more than enough to preserve their excellent record of having never lost to the Jacks in any of the 20 games between the clubs.
Next up in Everton’s crusade for European qualification is a rearranged trip to St James’ Park on Tuesday evening.