Everton fell to a cruel stoppage-time defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion on a day when the 3-2 scoreline told only a fraction of the story from a chaotic encounter at the Amex Stadium.
The Blues led with 16 minutes to play after Dominic Calvert-Lewin's smart finish. But Brighton equalised from the spot through Neal Maupay and deep into stoppage time substitute Leandro Trossard escaped down the left to send in a cross which the luckless Lucas Digne steered into his own net.
Calvert-Lewin came on as a substitute with 18 minutes remaining and two minutes later sent the 2,000+ Evertonians in Sussex into tumult with a classy finish between Mat Ryan’s legs.
Everton were on top at this stage, exerting their authority after Adam Webster’s own goal, created by Richarlison’s powerful movement and header, had cancelled out a free-kick from Pascal Gross.
Michael Keane, though, was the victim of a VAR decision which ruled the defender had tugged forward Aaron Connolly as the pair jostled under a high ball. Neal Maupay smashed his penalty down the middle to even things up with 10 minutes to play.
And Belgian Trossard raced away in the final passage of play to ultimately help decide the game in his side's favour.
Everton were behind for only five minutes in the contest and the Blues’ 20th-minute equaliser came direct from the training ground.
Marco Silva’s side has been threatening to score from a set-piece for aeons, being thwarted by a mix of excellent goalkeeping, courageous defending and the odd refereeing call.
Here, though, fortune went in Everton’s favour.
Richarlison was already on the move when Digne whipped in a corner from the left and nipped in front of Webster to head towards goal.
Webster wore a portion of the ball, which skimmed the defender before cannoning off the turf and past Ryan’s desperate dive.
That the goal didn’t go down against Richarlison’s name probably won’t cause the Brazilian to lose too much sleep.
He’s got plenty more in his locker and, anyway, the forward sources as much pleasure from teeing up others as he does hitting the target.
So it was that Richarlison was bombing down the left moments later to slide a ball for Theo Walcott at the back post.
Albion’s slight Australian keeper Ryan was off his line in the blink of an eye to smother.
Walcott had another opportunity seven minutes before half-time after another electric raid from Richarlison, Everton’s creator-in-chief during this period.
Richarlison applied the brakes as he reached the penalty box, steadied himself and squared for Walcott. He lashed on target only for centre-back Lewis Dunk to enter from stage right and execute a block which was a triumph for over-my-dead-body defending and bravery in equal measure.
Alex Iwobi was an interested observer and first to the scraps. Iwobi started at the byline and progressively weaved his way backwards to unleash a low shot which Ryan clung to at his near post.
Brighton’s opening goal already seemed a distant memory. Gross’s free-kick was excellent, though, blasted right-footed across Jordan Pickford from 20 yards after Andre Gomes was penalised for impeding Connolly.
Gross was the recipient of a tackle from Tom Davies in first-half stoppage time which reflected how Everton had their blood up.
Davies had been involved inside 60 seconds, too, as Everton began by slicing through their hosts. Djibril Sidibe played his part before Iwobi sent Walcott racing behind Dan Burn, the defender rooted but grateful to see Walcott’s delivery cut out at the front post.
Everton, or more pertinently, Bernard suffered a massive blow on 27 minutes. There was no one within five yards of the South American as he caught his studs in the turf and collapsed in a heap.
Bernard immediately signalled his involvement was finished and replays indicated he had twisted his knee.
Gylfi Sigurdsson came on, Iwobi moving out left to accommodate the Icelander in the middle. It was from that position Sigurdsson sent a long-range shot caroming off the turf and into the arms of Ryan.
Brighton, though, were slick on the counter and consistently retained a threat.
Striker Maupay latched onto a ball over the top after 12 minutes but thrashed off target.
And shortly before the interval Digne was alert to the danger when Maupay steered a cross to Steven Alzate, whose goalbound effort was blocked by the Frenchman.
Everton remained the most likely, though, and 60 seconds before that moment Iwobi curled narrowly wide from distance following a clever short-corner routine between Digne and Sigurdsson.
Alzate’s strike three minutes after the restart was always tailing away from the target, while Burn flung himself in front of Davies to prevent the midfielder from connecting with Digne’s free-kick.
Iwobi caught hold of a fearsome blast after a Digne corner was cleared to the edge of the box, Ryan standing firm to clutch the ball to his midriff.
Gross thought he’d scored again when he turned home a cross after 64 minutes but the midfielder had drifted a foot offside.
There was no disputing Calvert-Lewin’s sure finish following Mason Holgate’s surge from defence and pinpoint through pass.
Maupay was granted the opportunity to draw his side level, though, and the Frenchman took it, blasting unerringly down the middle, before Digne's unfortunate intervention won it for the hosts.
Richarlison went it alone up front on his 50th Everton appearance and demonstrated precisely why manager Marco Silva fancies the Brazilian in that position.
His header to produce Everton's 20th-minute equaliser here stemmed from an archetypal piece of poacher’s play. Richarlison’s sprint from a standing start was timed perfectly in anticipation of a flat corner driven from the left by Lucas Digne.
Richarlison sprung to climb above centre-back Adam Webster, who stands about two inches taller than the Everton man, and twisted his neck to send the ball scooting off the turf via a deflection off Webster and beyond Mat Ryan.
Silva was adamant from the day Richarlison walked through the door over the Brazilian’s capacity to play anywhere across the frontline.
He has the instincts of a centre-forward, changing up his movement to come short in one instant, then running beyond the defence to stretch play.
Early on he laid off a pass to Theo Walcott and promptly made a beeline for the penalty spot in the image of an old-fashioned number 9.
Richarlison is scoring his Premier League goals for Everton at a rate of one in every three games. – and he will consider himself unfortunate his effort here was credited to Brighton’s Webster.
He has added two in cup competitions, too, for the very handy return of 17 goals in 50 games.
Richarlison was in full flow to hare down the left and cross for Theo Walcott shortly after Everton’s equaliser, goalkeeper Ryan smartly out to thwart the Englishman.
It was Lewis Dunk flying across goal to deny Walcott when Richarlison scorched down the right before retaining his composure to cut back for his teammate.
Holgate's Impressive Return
Mason Holgate was on the front foot from the opening whistle of his first Premier League start in 405 days.
Defender Holgate last began a top-flight match against West Ham United on 16 September last year but needed no recourse to a bottle of WD40 to ease away any rust.
The moment which will live longest in the memory from Holgate’s performance arrived after 74 minutes.
He cruised out of defence, progressing upfield with Brighton in retreat. Holgate’s eventual pass was immaculate in its timing and execution, splitting defensive pair Adam Webster and Ezequiel Schelotto and ushering in Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score.
Holgate, who celebrated his 23rd birthday this week, left nimble Brighton forward Aaron Connolly for dead in an early footrace.
This week he referred to teammate and fellow man of the White Rose Fabian Delph as a “loud Yorkshireman”. The tag would equally suit Holgate and it was his voice booming into the dank Sussex sky claiming offside when Connolly prematurely ran behind Everton’s backline after nine minutes.
Holgate’s an organiser, dragging Lucas Digne back to cover or ushering his backline away from their own goal. “Up, up,” bellowed Holgate when Everton progressed over halfway.
For a footballer who is aggressive in his work – Holgate will always win the ball as high up the pitch as possible – he is unflappable, too.
At the midway point Holgate had completed a mighty 95.7 per cent of his 23 passes, in addition to making two clearances and winning his lone tackle.
He met Connolly on halfway three minutes after the restart and forced the Irish striker deep into his own half.
Holgate had played 18 minutes Premier League football across two appearances from the bench prior to this contest.
He has, though, played 41 games in the division and started 34 times.
It talks to his maturity that he was able to lean on his experience, along with the 24 matches he featured in on loan for West Bromwich Albion last term, to perform so assuredly on his return.
The next task for Holgate, and he’ll say it himself, is to do this again. And again. That way lies a career as an elite centre-half.