Everton were hit by a second-half Aston Villa triple-whammy to go down to a first defeat across the competitions this season.
After Rafa Benitez’s side won their third Premier League match out of four by scoring three times in six minutes against Burnley five days ago, the boot was on the other foot here.
Matthew Cash blew the game open with a rising left-foot drive on 66 minutes and Leon Bailey drove in Villa’s third nine minutes later.
Between times, on 69 minutes, Lucas Digne headed into his own net from Bailey’s corner.
It was cruel on Everton who were without the stricken pair of Richarlison and Jordan Pickford, in addition to Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who is nursing a quadriceps injury and captain Seamus Coleman.
The away team gave as good as they got regardless of the big-hitting absentees and 60 seconds before Villa’s opener were inches from grabbing the lead for themselves.
Demarai Gray, however – and the forward deserved so much more for another top-class demonstration of attacking purpose and trickery – curled fractionally off target from the left of the penalty area.
Salomon Rondon, meanwhile, made his first Everton start and on three occasions in the opening 45 minutes had half-chances to mark the occasion with a goal.
Everton remain fifth and level on points with second-placed Manchester City despite this result after claiming 10 points from their opening four league games.
It would be a stretch to claim Everton were employing rope-a-dope tactics in the first half.
But the away team resembled a coiled spring, bound into a tight defensive unit when Villa raided, and instantly switching into attack mode after regaining possession.
Gray and Andros Townsend were invariably the protagonists, dashing forwards with the ball at their feet while hordes of white shirts raced to keep up.
Gray flew down the left after 17 minutes to slide a delivery across the face of goal. The winger, a scorer in each of Everton’s past three Premier League games, looked aghast as Rondon flung himself at the ball but was unable to make contact.
Villa can’t say they weren’t warned about Everton’s speed and threat on the break.
Ben Godfrey was starting out of position at right-back but laid down a fourth-minute marker over his attacking intent.
Indeed, Godfrey was up and down offering support for Townsend all evening. On this first occasion, he collected possession from Alex Iwobi and quickly made tracks for the return after passing upfield to Townsend.
Godfrey’s low cross to the front post found Rondon, whose toed effort was squeezed wide by a Villa boot.
Rondon again at the corner, meeting Townsend’s flat delivery with a flick that directed the ball marginally too high.
There was a near carbon copy at the other end soon after.
Tyrone Mings’ contact was cleaner than Rondon’s as he met Douglas Luiz’s dead-ball, however, and Asmir Begovic required both tremendous reactions and a granite right hand to prevent Villa from going in front.
There was no need to summon forensics to detect the fingerprints of Aston Villa set-piece coach Austin MacPhee all over the hosts’ next progressive passage of play.
A free-kick from the right was delivered square along the ground to Matt Targett.
He hung the ball to the far post for Ezri Konsa to find fellow defender Mings. The England player used his head to locate Danny Ings, whose outside-of-the-right-boot volleyed attempt flew over.
John McGinn shot past Begovic’s right post on 28 minutes – those two Villa efforts sandwiching a Michael Keane header wide of the target after Townsend’s latest menacing corner.
There was another strike from McGinn that cannoned into Keane – Cash wayward with the rebound – before injury forced off the Scottish midfielder on 39 minutes.
Everton, meantime, spent a chunk of time in Villa’s defensive third.
Nothing clear cut emerged from a sustained spell of pressure – Gray buzzing past two players but shooting into Mings the best of it – but Villa were increasingly on the rack.
Mings won a series of crucial headers in his own penalty box – and dumped Gray onto the seat of his pants after being taken aback by the impudent winger’s presence on his wrong side from a long forward pass.
Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez, fresh off a plane after 10 days of quarantine in Croatia following an international-break escapade – swallowed up a venomous Townsend effort 60 seconds before the break.
Everton were convinced Konsa dragged back Gray on the edge of the box eight minutes after the restart – and furious when play was waved on.
Mings didn’t escape punishment for catching Townsend late when Everton next attacked but the wronged player fired the set-piece into the wall.
These were encouraging development for the visitors after a spell pinned onto the back foot. Everton were indebted to Yerry Mina, in particular, for a clearing header with Ings poised to pounce.
Martinez saved down at his left post on 59 minutes after Iwobi latched onto a return pass from Gray to jab an effort goalwards.
Rondon, without a competitive start since May, had run his race by the 63rd minute – the Venezuelan’s tireless display earning him an ovation from the travelling Evertonians when he was replaced by Andre Gomes.
On 65 minutes, Gray thought he’d found the key to the safe. Townsend played the pass across the fringe of the penalty area.
Gray controlled and stood up his defender, reluctant to commit because of the forward’s ability to run past on either side, before sending a shot towards the far post.
Martinez was concerned enough to fling himself full length and relieved when the ball bent the wrong side of the upright from an Everton perspective.
The fragility of the margins in so many of these English top-division games was shown up by what unfolded over the following three minutes.
Cash escaped into the box to receive Luiz’s pass and jink onto his left foot for an effort that screamed into the roof of the net.
Begovic had no chance with that one and was similarly helpless 180 seconds later.
Bailey, on as a substitute, swung a right-wing corner to the near post.
Digne leapt for the first touch but the Frenchman’s skimming contact directed the ball beyond Begovic and into the far corner.
Jacob Ramsey scurried forwards and planted a shot past Begovic’s left post and Luiz rippled the top of the net with a free-kick as Villa confidence mushroomed.
And Bailey strode onto Ings' crossfield pass, delivered with the outside of his right foot, to rip a ferocious strike high into Begovic’s net and all-but condemn Everton to a first defeat this season.
The away side persevered. Gomes shot powerfully into a crowd of bodies and Keane was wide with a header from Digne’s left-wing free-kick.
But Villa's nine-minute blitz decided the contest and left Everton ruing that critical 60 seconds when a potential lead, as Gray came within a coat of paint of his fourth goal in as many Premier League games, turned into a deficit at the hands of Villa full-back Cash.