Everton were 13 minutes away from sealing only their second win at Manchester United in 27 years but had to settle for one point following a performance packed with courage and intent.
Duncan Ferguson’s team hit the front – and sparked another wonderful celebration from the caretaker manager – when Victor Lindelof steered Leighton Baines’s corner into his own net nine minutes before half-time.
Everton had chances to add to their advantage, Dominic Calvert-Lewin a hair’s breadth from connecting with Alex Iwobi’s cross with United rocking.
The home team upped their intensity following the break, however, and substitute Mason Greenwood guided a low shot inside Jordan Pickford’s left post to haul United level.
Baines’s corner was the source of Everton’s deadlock-breaking goal.
The left-back hung up his delivery from the right, effectively teeing up a direct battle between David De Gea and Calvert-Lewin.
Goalkeeper De Gea got the touch but Calvert-Lewin claimed the spoils, the ball travelling another five yards or so before hitting Lindelof on the shins and rolling over the line.
An Everton team with a decidedly unfamiliar look about it had been assured to this point, adhering to Ferguson's gameplan of restricting United’s space and springing to life on the counter.
Mason Holgate, playing next to Tom Davies in midfield, forced De Gea into a scrambling tip over with an overhit ball into the box, Spaniard De Gea not a happy camper when he clattered into a post after making the save.
Holgate did intend to test United’s keeper with a seventh-minute strike well held by De Gea, who was similarly secure when Calvert-Lewin powerfully took aim from 30 yards just past the half hour.
Jordan Pickford was relatively untroubled for a long period. That was until Tom Davies, walking a disciplinary tightrope after being booked for felling Scott McTominay after five minutes, was penalised for tripping the same player 20 yards from goal.
Marcus Rashford walloped the dead ball, sending it on a swerving trajectory. Pickford initially moved right but recovered to fling out his left palm and beat away the ball in the image of Rafa Nadal unleashing a scorching forehand.
Pickford saved using more conventional but no less impressive means 17 mniutes after half-time when Luke Shaw advanced from left-back to shoot.
Everton keeper Pickford was fully extended to his left to parry. Dan James clobbered the rebound on target but into the head of Lingard, desperately trying to take evasive action.
Rashford thrashing wide after being released by Lindelof on 10 minutes had Ferguson scribbling in his notebook.
Winger James was similarly errant when McTominay’s ball inside Lucas Digne freed the United winger in Everton’s box.
Digne made the universal signal of any player needing to be replaced midway through the first half and was nursing his groin as he left the field
Lingard, off target after spinning on a loose ball inside the opening 60 seconds, was perhaps fortunate to escape a caution for a lunge at best mate Michael Keane.
Bernard, operating left of a three-man forward line behind main striker Calvert-Lewin had screwed wide from 20 yards early in the piece, too.
Alex Iwobi was playing on the opposite side and carrying a significant threat to the home team.
He supplied the ball which Lindelof headed behind for the corner that led to Everton going in front.
And Iwobi would have had an assist to his name moments later if Calvert-Lewin had been able to stretch another inch to make contact with an arrowing ball from the right.
Fred and Rashford, wildly, were too high with efforts shortly after half-time, the former also furious when his free-kick from the right passed through a mass of bodies unmolested.
Yerry Mina thought he might have had a penalty when he went over under a challenge from Harry Maguire following a Baines free-kick after McTominay fouled Holgate.
Nothing doing and in the blink of an eye Keane was doing very well to ease Maguire away from James’s lofted centre.
Mina’s heart was momentarily in his mouth when Anthony Martial fell in the box and Everton puffed their cheeks when Lindelof’s attempt to make amends for his earlier lapse ended with the defender’s rising left foot strike clearing the bar.
United were turning the screw, committing more red shirts to attack.
Mina and Keane made a succession of interceptions and clearances, while the hosts were being denied the luxury of a clear shot at goal.
The dam burst with 13 minutes remaining, however, albeit Greenwood had to forced his smart strike through a forest of legs to defeat Pickford.
Everton still looked likely on the break, though. Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s immaculately timed challenge halted Richarlison 12 yards out – and the right-back executed his tackle on the same player in similarly assured style five minutes from the end.
Pickford was equal to another dipping Rashford dead ball shortly after United’s equaliser, while Iwboi’s effort from the left was turned round by De Gea.
This was a point Everton would have signed up for, albeit they were within touching distance of all three.
It is to soon to say Everton have completed an about-turn in their campaign but foundations are being laid, no question.
Beating Chelsea at a bouncing Goodison Park is one thing.
Backing up that effort with a team deprived of a number of bodies spread between the injury room and sick bay is another.
This was the performance of a side playing with renewed belief. Everton had a plan they believed in and adhered to it.
Indeed, their effort could have yielded more than just one point but their prize was enough to move up one position in the Premier League table.
Everton are positioned on the shoulder of a number of teams mow – and those teams will be aware of the Blues stirring in their shadows.
Duncan Ferguson had not long discarded his suit jacket when Everton’s caretaker manager was gambolling up and down the Old Trafford touchline.
Victor Lindelof, his feet rooted in the turf, had unwittingly helped the ball into his own net and Ferguson was jubilant.
This was another Everton goal directly from the Scot’s playbook to follow the three scored against Chelsea in Ferguson’s first match at the helm eight days ago.
There was nothing aesthetically pleasing about the sequence of events which led directly to Everton taking the lead.
The football which preceded the Blues’ breakthrough, however, was neat and, on occasions, incisive.
One spell of keepball drew a chorus of Oles from the visting supporters.
And it was another sustained spell of Everton possession which finished with Lindelof heading behind at his near post from an Alex Iwobi delivery.
Leighton Baines did what he’s done hundred of times in his Everton career, stomping across the field to take a corner.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin buffeted goalkeeper David de Gea as Baines’ lofted delivery arrived in the box.
De Gea’s minimal contact kept the ball on its course but took Lindelof by surprise.
The Swede was fixed to the spot as it hit his shins and could only watch on horrified as the ball rolled into his net.
The obligatory VAR check was cursory and Ferguson did not stand on ceremony, launching into his full-on celebration before the footage had made its way down the line to Stockley Park.
First inspection of Everton’s teamsheet suggested Duncan Ferguson would utilise his defensive numbers by employing a three-man backline.
When the game kicked off, however, one of that trio in Mason Holgate was partnering Tom Davies in a Premier League engine room boasting a combined age of 43.
Holgate is equipped to fill the position, combative, agile and accomplished on the ball.
Being granted reduced time in possession didn’t faze Holgate one jot, a pass swiped to Lucas Digne in the opening exchanges testament to his poise.
Everton’s rigid four-man midfield suited the central pairing, Davies and Holgate plugging gaps and clogging up United’s supply line to the hosts’ battery of lighting forwards.
Holgate’s quick feet lured Jesse Lingard into an injudicious tackle on 20 minutes. England international Lingard was playing on the shoulders of Everton’s midfield, demanding either Holgate or Davies stand sentry in front of the attacker when United were probing.
Indeed, the boot was on the other foot 10 minutes after the restart when Davies was the man in possession and Lingard nibbled at the Everton player’s ankles.
In the next instant, Scott McTominay was bundling into Holgate to concede a free-kick.
Everton went on the retreat in the closing minutes of the first half, Holgate proving an impenetrable barrier for Marcus Rashford in full flight then doing enough to squeeze a McTominay shot off target.
Naturally, United’s slice of possession and territory grew as they hunted a leveller in the closing 25 minutes. Holgate and Davies stood firm in front of the excellent Yerry Mina and Michael Keane and the two young Englishman will reflect on an afternoon when they banked credit and experience in equal measure.
Value of Experience
If Everton’s central midfielders boasted an average age of 21.5, then the Blues’ wing-back duo from midway through the first half belonged at the other end of the experience spectrum.
Four days after turning 35 – and little more than a week after playing his first competitive football since 2 February – Leighton Baines came on for the stricken Lucas Digne to make his 413th Everton appearance.
Clocking up match number 300 for Everton on the other side of the field was Seamus Coleman, back sooner than expected from the rib injury which laid him low for three weeks.
A penny for Coleman’s thoughts when he wore a fierce blast flush on his head early in the contest.
Duncan Ferguson promised Everton would “go for it” and the visitors’ twin strikeforce was in keeping with the caretaker manager’s attacking creed.
Ferguson was nevertheless under no illusions about the imperative of Everton retaining their solidity.
Coleman, then, understood – probably quite liked – that this would be a bodies-on-the-line mission.
Baines was up to speed the instant he crossed the white line, into his stride and making those trademark runs to draw away defenders and create room for Everton’s forwards.
His corner was on the money, cramping De Gea and ultimately forcing Lindelof into his fateful lapse.
Coleman, four years Baines's junior, finished the game having made five tackles, and two interceptions, Baines with four clearances.
The pair made a combined four crosses and contested 10 duels. All in a day's work.