Everton’s battle for Premier League survival will continue until Thursday, at least, after Brentford made full capital on playing the majority of this match with an extra man to leave Goodison Park with three points.
Results elsewhere, defeat for Burnley at Spurs, coupled with Leeds United’s draw with Brighton & Hove Albion, mean Frank Lampard’s team remain in 16th.
The advantage over Burnley is two points, while Leeds are one point back, having played one game more.
Everton’s fate is still in their own hands, then. But the frustration tonight will stem from the knowledge the Club was 28 minutes – plus additional time – from securing its top division status.
Achieving that position of superiority in this match was not an easy feat after Jarrad Branthwaite, a replacement for the unwell Michael Keane, was sent off on 18 minutes for illegally halting Ivan Toney’s clear run at goal.
Everton led at that stage, Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring a first goal since 28 August, when he applied a gossamer touch to Richarlison’s flick from an Anthony Gordon free-kick.
Richarlison picked himself up after being fouled to score from the spot and restore Everton’s advantage in first-half stoppage time, following Seamus Coleman's deflection into his own net from Yoane Wissa’s cross for a Brentford equaliser.
The away team, for whom Christian Eriksen was outstanding, turned the match on its head in the space of three second-half minutes.
Wissa headed in from a corner and, on 64 minutes, Rico Henry steamed into the penalty box to convert a lifted cross from Christian Norgaard.
Salomon Rondon’s dismissal for a misjudged challenge on Henry with two minutes to play – four minutes after the Venezuelan’s introduction – essentially put the outcome beyond doubt.
For Everton, there is no time for recriminations, with Crystal Palace due at Goodison on in four days.
Their excellent supporters will rally, enthusiastically greeting the home team’s coach and creating a hair-raising atmosphere to match those of the past couple of weeks.
And Lampard and his players must find it in themselves to summon another performance loaded with energy and aggression and belief. Put those two factors together, and Everton give themselves a very good chance of putting this to bed before next Sunday’s trip to Arsenal.
The opening half of this match in a frothing Goodison was bookended by episodes that sent the natives into raptures.
What occurred in between was a tougher watch for those with Everton allegiances and we will come to that – to the red card for Branthwaite and to a Brentford equaliser.
But only one place to start: a first goal for Calvert-Lewin since he scored for the third successive game, at Brighton & Hove Albion, on 28 August.
The clocks have changed twice in the intervening period, as Calvert-Lewin fought with the quadriceps issue that threatened to kibosh his campaign.
Calvert-Lewin, however, got his timing right, here, returning after five weeks without a start and touching Everton in front after 10 minutes.
There was an element of fortune for the striker, sure, but Calvert-Lewin got his rewards for taking up an intelligent position in the middle of the six-yard box, as Richarlison applied delicate contact to Gordon’s free-kick, turned in from the right.
Certainly, there were occasions later in the match when Brentford manager Thomas Frank would have craved a predatory forward in the image of Calvert-Lewin as balls flashed across the face of Everton’s goal.
Calvert-Lewin instinctively moved towards the ball, managing a gossamer touch with his chest to confound Brentford goalkeeper David Raya, and Mads Bech Sorensen, the defender haplessly trying to clear at the far post.
For Sorensen, this was an extension of a rotten personal start – and things wouldn’t get much better in a hurry.
The Dane scythed down Gordon to concede the set-piece from which Everton opened the scoring.
Sorensen received a yellow card – he was followed into the book by Norgaard and Ajer, that pair punished for halting surges from Abdoulaye Doucoure and Calvert-Lewin, respectively – and must have feared another caution for his involvement when Everton re-established their advantage.
There was nothing subtle about the source of Everton’s second goal. Jordan Pickford fired a ball through the middle of the pitch and Richarlison hared into the box to meet Calvert-Lewin’s excellent flick.
Sorensen was momentarily panicked and couldn’t resist a tug of Richarlison’s waist. It was a penalty, no question.
Poor old Richarlison has a bee in his bonnet about the ‘goals’ taken off him this term. There were a couple ruled out against Arsenal back in December, tight calls both, and one in the home victory over Leeds United when it was discovered Gordon made the decisive contact.
He probably originally thought he’d given Everton the lead, here, and given the opportunity to indisputably put his team in front for a second time, Richarlison rifled high into the net from the spot for a fifth goal in eight matches. He’s a gem.
Everton had flown at Brentford from the first whistle, transferring the energy and intensity of another febrile coach welcome to the Goodison turf.
The hosts had their first corner inside one minute. And it was indicative of Brentford’s frazzled condition in the opening minutes when Calvert-Lewin’s backwards header caused confusion, freeing Gordon for a shot that Raya saved to his left. Richarlison headed wide on the rebound, then was off target when Ajer hesitated under a high cross, allowing the South American to steal in for a volleyed attempt.
Brentford fired a warning shot over their own offensive capability after six minutes, when Toney flashed a header over from Eriksen’s flat, right-wing free-kick.
Everton, though, were on top in every respect, creating chances and barely threatened in their own half. Around 18 minutes, however, we had a passage of play that completely altered the shape of the game.
Richarlison was aghast when Michael Oliver, the referee, opted against awarding a penalty after Ajer helped himself to a handful of the forward’s jersey.
In an instant, the ball was transferred to the other end, Branthwaite caught the wrong side of Toney and absolutely distraught to see Oliver produce a red card for the nudge in the striker’s back.
Eriksen couldn’t add to Everton’s frustration, whipping the free-kick a foot past the post.
You’d have got long odds at the beginning of the season – scratch that, you’d have got long odds this morning, on an Everton back four featuring, from right to left, Alex Iwobi, Seamus Coleman, Mason Holgate and Vitali Mykolenko. But following Branthwaite’s dismissal – and with Keane falling ill overnight, we were in needs must territory.
Iwobi, in that orthodox right-back position, did brilliantly on the cover to foil Mathias Jensen in the heart of the penalty area.
Jensen had another chance, when the ball sat up after Henry’s low delivery from the left deflected off Andre Gomes, but the volley was pulled wildly across goal.
Gomes kept Raya honest with a strike from distance the Spaniard pushed out to his left.
But Brentford made their man advantage pay 60 seconds later.
Toney was incredulous when his centre travelled through Everton’s six-yard box with no takers.
But Wissa, the increasingly influential left sider, collected to redirect the ball into the middle. It arrived on Coleman quickly and he was powerless to avoid the contact that beat Pickford.
Pickford saved comfortably when Henry met a cross from Ajer with an attempt on the full – and Toney’s connection was weak when he strode onto a ball Eriksen lifted over the top from tight to the halfway line.
Wissa forced a smart stop from Pickford, progressively more involved, but the away team, suddenly sensing a momentum shift, were stung by events shortly before half-time.
Everton, 2-1 in front, returned with intent, both Gordon and Calvert-Lewin straining, but failing, to reach Richarlison’s ball thrashed across goal.
Any hope among the edgy Evertonians that Brentford might go quietly was dispelled as the away side gradually took hold of possession.
The team from West London won three of their previous five away matches – and were victorious in six of their past nine games anywhere.
They applied the confidence and assurance stemming from those fruitful sequencess to regain a foothold, steadily using their extra body to create space and chances.
Toney wore a full-blooded Jensen effort in the face and Pickford did very well to push out a firm Eriksen free-kick after the ball arrived through a forest of bodies from the right.
Eriksen was on the money with every dead ball and the Scandinavian’s accuracy paid dividends after 62 minutes.
The corner from Brentford’s left found Wissa, roughly five yards in advance of the near post but, somehow, managing to divert a looping header into the far corner.
And, for the visitors, two very swiftly became three.
Two minutes elapsed between Wissa’s leveller and the goal from Henry that put Brentford in front for the first time.
Norgaard and substitute Josh Dasilva traded passes, seemingly interminably, on the visitors’ right.
It was Norgaard from deep who eventually hung up a delivery for Henry to dash in and head emphatically into the net.
Lampard replaced Gomes and Gordon with Jonjoe Kenny and Demarai Gray – and after both Eriksen and Bryan Mbeumo missed opportunities on the counter-attack, sent on Rondon for Coleman.
But the final change went awry when Rondon was too lusty in the challenge, mistiming an attempt to dispossess Henry and becoming the second Everton player sent off.
Holgate scrambled back to head off the line and prevent Eriksen adding to the score, but playing nine against 11, Everton’s hopes of obtaining one point, at least, were gone.
A three-match unbeaten run comes to an end, then. But survival remains in Everton’s hands, with Crystal Palace the visitors to Goodison later this week, when Lampard’s side will aim to guarantee top-flight football for next term.