Everton conceded twice in each half to go down to defeat at Chelsea and will need to do a lot of heavy lifting to rejoin the crowded Premier League hunt for European football.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team are 12th and six points off fifth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers and must aim to jump start their campaign following a meeting with Chelsea for a second time.
It was from the reverse contest, which Everton won 3-1 at Goodison Park back in December, that a run of six wins and five draws in 13 games was born.
At Stamford Bridge, the Blues – who gave a second Premier League appearance from the bench to teenage forward Anthony Gordon – were staring at an uphill battle before the opening 45 minutes were half done.
Chelsea led after 14 minutes when Mason Mount swivelled to lash a low strike past Jordan Pickford.
And the hosts were two in front seven minutes later, Pedro fastening onto Ross Barkley’s through ball and directing his finish inside the right post.
Everton weren’t without chances and Dominic Calvert-Lewin was narrowly off target after being teed up by Richarlison soon after Pedro's strike.
The second half was only six minutes old, however, when Willian arrowed in from range and three minutes later Olivier Giroud completed the scoring.
A tumbling save from Pickford had prevented Mount from opening the scoring on seven minutes.
Striker Giroud turned the ball forward for Willian to counter down the right and square for Englishman Mount.
The midfielder got hold of his shot but Pickford flung himself right to make the stop. It was a fabulous piece of work from the goalkeeper.
There wasn’t a whole lot Pickford could have done to deny Mount seven minutes later, however.
The Chelsea player’s stamp was all over the move, collecting possession in the centre circle and haring forwards after switching a pass to Pedro on the left.
Former Barcelona attacker Pedro didn’t get his return quite right, directing it in Mount’s general direction rather than into the stride of his intended target.
Mount adjusted in a flash, controlling and spinning in one movement on the 18-yard line to rifle low past Pickford’s outstretched right hand.
With Giroud at the tip of their attack and accomplished with his back to goal, Chelsea were flooding numbers forward from midfield and out wide.
Thing was, the home side were looking dicey at the back. Hesitant in possession and uncomfortable when Everton got a run at them.
Richarlison mugged Kurt Zouma on halfway, shrugged off the Frenchman’s enthusiastic attempt to recover and slipped in Calvert-Lewin, pulling off the shoulder of Antonio Rudiger.
Calvert-Lewin’s first touch was okay but his second was rather scuffed and directed the ball beyond the far post.
Richarlison had earlier run into the box to thrash a shot into Kepa Arrizabalga’s midriff – that 60 seconds after Mount’s opener.
And by the time Calvert-Lewin had his opportunity Everton had fallen two behind.
It was Giroud in the thick of it again, receiving a pass with his back to goal from Cesar Azpilicueta with a perfunctory swish of the boot to feed Barkley.
Barkley, whose coughing up of possession to Tom Davies after five minutes went down well with the Evertonians in the ground, spied Pedro’s run through the middle and located his man.
Pedro did the rest with very little fuss, easing his strike low to Pickford’s left.
Spaniard Pedro raced into the box following a clever Giroud flick early in the piece but lifted his head to see Andre Gomes retreating to intercept a low cross.
Pickford had two further stops to execute in the opening half.
The first Chelsea player repelled by a sharp one-handed save down to the Everton keeper’s right was Willian after being threaded in by Barkley.
And Pickford held on comfortably when Giroud, infused with optimism, swung his boot from 25 yards.
Pedro nearly had his second seven minutes after the interval, the Chelsea player escaping Djibril Sidibe and jinking into the box to dig out a shot which rippled the top of the net on its way over.
Either side of Pedro’s solo effort Chelsea killed off the game.
Willian, influential with his speed and directness in the opening half, as good as put Chelsea out of sight with an exquisite finish from 25 yards.
Barkley was the architect, receiving a pass infield before feeding Willian who exploited the space around him by letting fly with a crisp drive which nestled inside the helpless Pickford’s right-hand post.
Willian added an assist three minutes later, swapping passes with Mount at a short corner on the left and hanging a cross to the back post.
Giroud watched it all the way onto his left boot, meeting the ball on the bounce and guiding it back across Pickford.
Everton manager Ancelotti made his second change of the afternoon at this point – Theo Walcott came on for the start of the second half after Bernard was hurt late in the opening 45 minutes – Moise Kean introduced in place of Davies.
Striker Kean went up top with Calvert-Lewin and Everton shifted to a midfield diamond with Richarlison at the tip.
Still Chelsea didn’t let up. Pickford flew right to keep out Pedro after Willian’s ball into middle was dummied by Barkley.
And Pickford, having a very good game, got down at his near post to grab hold of an effort from Barkley.
Gordon replaced Calvert-Lewin to play wide on the left but the game was becoming stretched.
A cross from Walcott was snaffled by Kepa, with Richarlison poised to convert – moments after Richarlison blasted into a crowd of bodies when a Lucas Digne free-kick was only partially cleared.
Sidibe’s last-ditch challenge, meanwhile, prevented home substitute Faustino Anjorin from sweeping in after Billy Gilmour’s cutting run and pass.
Pickford shovelled out a skidding long-range hit from Azpilicueta and Mason Holgate went in the book for dumping substitute Armando Broja to the turf.
The young Chelsea player fairly quickly jumped to his feet and it is up to Everton to do the same.