Everton successfully navigated a visit to the Black Country to continue along the path towards the sunlit uplands of European football.
My, they had to scrap at The Hawthorns, resisting early pressure – Jordan Pickford making one excellent stop from Mbaye Diagne – then battening down the hatches after Richarlison headed in from close range with 25 minutes remaining.
Richarlison, again, after his goal settled Monday's game against Southampton.
Carlo Ancelotti wanted to "touch fourth" and when Darren England, the referee, blew for full-time, following five added minutes – when Diagne had a goal ruled out following a tight offside call – Everton’s manager had his wish.
This third successive victory saw Everton climb three places from seventh in the Premier League, ahead of a trip to Chelsea next Monday.
Ancelotti got his reward for chasing victory when the game was scoreless.
He sent on Allan and changed to a midfield diamond, after 58 minutes, providing Everton with an additional attacking body.
Ancelotti’s next move was to introduce Gylfi Sigurdsson, who duly delivered the ball – after his initial corner was cleared – for Richarlison to head decisively beyond Sam Johnstone.
It was the forward’s fourth goal in as many Premier League games – and earned a ninth unbeaten away game for Everton, matching a run they last achieved 31 years ago, in 1984/85.
West Brom made all the early running, drawing encouragement from creating an opening inside two minutes to play with purpose and aggression.
The magnificent Ben Godfrey, as you might expect, rather enjoyed the task of countering the hosts’ up-and-at-‘em approach.
He rose to intercept a Matt Phillips cross destined for Diagne and was ubiquitous when West Brom attacked; blocking, challenging and frustrating.
Godfrey’s blood was up and when the pitch opened up in front of him on 28 minutes, the Everton defender surged forwards, covering 60 yards or so, before unleashing a drive that deflected behind off Dara O’Shea.
The story until then had been one of Everton shading possession but West Bromwich carrying all the threat.
Which went right back to that early opportunity.
Connor Gallagher reacted quickest when Godfrey headed clear and sprinted down the right to hang up a cross.
Diagne met it with a header that was bound for the inside of Pickford’s right post until the Everton goalkeeper launched himself to apply a crucial touch with his left hand.
Pickford then saved down to his right from a Phillips daisy cutter and Michael Keane got in the way of a second cross aimed at the imposing Diagne.
Another Gallagher delivery was knocked down by Phillips for Diagne to spin and shoot over.
Phillips had a second attempt from distance and was on target again but Keane stuck out a foot to intercept.
Everton’s best piece of play in the opening half involved five players and resulted in an effort Darnell Furlong deflected over the bar.
Lucas Digne found Bernard, moving infield from his left-wing position. The Brazilian ignored Mason Holgate screaming for a pass to his right, choosing to feed a pass into Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Doucoure was in a congested zone, 18 yards out, and bounced a pass to Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Calvert-Lewin hadn’t had a sight of goal at this point but was playing very well, nonetheless, linking up play, never standing still and consistently providing a passing option into feet.
On one occasion, he rushed ahead of O’Shea to skilfully toe a precise return pass into the run of the overlapping Digne.
In this instance, collecting the ball from Doucoure, Calvert-Lewin saw Richarlison holding his run and released the ball at the perfect moment.
Richarlison remained onside and fired on target but was foiled by Furlong’s flying block.
An earlier Richarlison effort lost its sting when hitting a defensive foot and looped harmlessly into Johnstone’s gloves.
Johnstone is evidently one of those goalkeepers who remains switched on by continually barking instructions at those in front of him.
And his method paid off when he unexpectedly encountered Calvert-Lewin bearing down on goal.
Unexpected because Bernard, starting only his third Premier League match this season, was aiming right with his pass from the middle of the field.
The diligent Ainsley Maitland-Niles jabbed out a boot to intercept and looked horrified as the ball ricocheted through to Calvert-Lewin, suddenly one-on-one with Johnstone.
The keeper held his nerve, however, standing tall to save with his leg.
Moments earlier, space opened up for Diagne in Everton’s penalty area, the striker turning this way and that under his striking dyed-blue cropped hair, but ultimately dawdling too long and allowing Pickford to gather.
Calvert-Lewin couldn’t reach a Bernard cross soon after the restart – the Everton forward haring forwards after providing the initial pass for Bernard.
Diagne, at the other end, did make contact with a ball flung into a dangerous area.
Kyle Bartley helped on Furlong’s long throw, finding Senegalese Diagne, who was too high with his effort.
A low Gallagher delivery flashed across Everton’s six-yard box and, with the game opening up, Johnstone hurried down to his right to hold Andre Gomes’ 25-yard drive.
Ancelotti opted for a change of tack on 58 minutes.
Allan replaced Alex Iwobi and Bernard shifted behind the front pair of Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin as Everton reverted to a midfield diamond.
Sigurdsson came on for Doucoure six minutes later and with his first involvement – 43 seconds after arriving – supplied the ammunition for Richarlison to convert.
West Brom were knocked back on their heels and when Everton next came forwards Furlong scythed down Digne on the left fringe of the penalty box – Johnstone punching clear Sigurdsson’s free-kick.
Calvert-Lewin cleared a corner at one end then lent back to sky an attempt from Digne’s cut back at the other.
Holgate made a terrific back-post clearance from Matheus Pereira’s deep cross, while Godfrey – who blocked a goalbound strike from substitute Hal Robson-Kanu – completed a fine penalty-box challenge on the same player.
Diagne briefly thought he’d salvaged a point when sweeping high into the net from Furlong’s stoppage-time cross but the VAR supported the linesman’s call, determining the West Bromwich forward's boot had strayed offside, and Everton won again.
Ancelotti’s Midas Touch Enables Richi To Bring Up Ton In Style
Carlo Ancelotti made his first change on 58 minutes – sending on Allan for Alex Iwobi – and waited only six minutes for substitution number two.
Gylfi Sigurdsson came on just as Everton won a corner and immediately pulled rank on set-piece duties.
Lucas Digne stood down, marching away from the dead ball and freeing the way for Sigurdsson to deliver.
The initial ball was cleared directly back to Sigurdsson, who controlled on his thigh, glanced up and, with his eye now in, whipped in a devilish delivery.
There were too many bodies in front of Sam Johnstone for the goalkeeper to make unhindered progress towards the ball and Richarlison capitalised.
The Brazilian jumped to power a header under the bar and score for the fourth match running.
It was the perfect way for Richarlison to celebrate his landmark 100th Everton start.
He has scored in four successive Premier League games and has six in six in all competitions.
Such is Richarlison’s scoring form, Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be looking over his shoulder in the race for Everton’s top-scoring honours.
Richarlison is up to 12 for the season, six behind Calvert-Lewin, half of those in the Premier League.
Pickford Alert For Game-Defining Save
Jordan Pickford waited 90 minutes to face a shot on his goal against Southampton three days ago.
The Everton goalkeeper passed his test of concentration, spreading himself to deny Jannik Verstergaard and ensure his side claimed three points.
Pickford carried on where he left off, here, when Mbaye Diagne tried to catch him cold after 90 seconds.
Diagne’s powerful header from Conor Gallagher’s centre was travelling ominously towards goal until Pickford took off to his right to intervene.
Twice in four days – and roughly five minutes of football – then, Pickford demonstrated terrific focus.
West Brom were quick and sharp from the start, their confidence obviously up following three games without defeat.
The last thing Everton would have wanted was to offer a further leg-up by conceding early.
Pickford, agile and attentive, ensured the hosts were denied their perfect start.
Simplistic as it sounds, it meant that when Richarlison headed into the net Everton were in front, rather than drawing level.
On their way to three points, not one, and to fourth, not sixth.
This was Pickford’s fourth successive start following a short lay-off and third straight clean sheet.
He is a key figure in Everton's push for a heady Premier League finish.
Everton Meet Expectations To ‘Touch’ Top Four
Coming to West Brom with Carlo Ancelotti talking about his desire to “touch the top four”, Everton knew what was at stake.
You sense that was how Ancelotti – a manager who says he likes the word expectation – wanted it.
There have been occasions this season when Everton have jumped through hoops to gain a promising league position, only to pass up the resulting opportunity for material gain.
Home defeats by Newcastle United and Fulham, when victories would have meant leaping three and two places, respectively, are the obvious examples.
In both instances Everton rapidly shook away their disappointment to achieve notable results, the mark of a team that is maturing and serious about staying the distance.
The next step was to grab one of these chances for a considerable move up the table.
Everton were fresh from two victories, the first against Liverpool to defy recent history, the second over Southampton when pre-match optimism was tempered by recent home difficulties.
This was different because Everton, using any measurement, were unequivocally fancied to win.
Ancelotti’s side have been magnificent on the road, winning eight and drawing two of their 12 away matches before tonight.
The wind was at their backs following those two successive wins and the prize for claiming three points was fourth position at full-time.
Chelsea or Liverpool might move ahead by the time Everton’s trio of team buses roll back into Merseyside but that is largely irrelevant.
Everton have a game in hand on both teams and their destiny is in their own hands. Moreover, if the season follows its established narrative, we can expect countless twists and turns between now and May.
The question that needed answering in the West Midlands was whether Everton could employ the expectation that accompanied them here as a force for good?
By answering in the affirmative, Ancelotti’s team coupled their climb up the Premier League table with an important psychological advance.