Andros Townsend worked his socks off to be here, fewer than four weeks after the forward cracked a bone in his foot in a game at former club Crystal Palace.
He’s a team man, Townsend, and made the long journey to Chelsea before Christmas to support his colleagues. Little wonder, then, that he bust a gut to sit on the bench for this Cup tie.
And how grateful Everton were for Townsend's determination and professionalism. For his magical properties on the ball, too, when the Englishman, sent on by Rafa Benitez on 66 minutes, collected possession in the ninth minute of extra-time.
Townsend was 25 yards out and unleashed a vicious, swerving strike that flew into the top-right corner and, ultimately, settled a rip-roaring Cup tie.
It was his sixth goal of the season and a blockbuster to rival the 30-year-old's Goodison Park howitzer against Burnley back in September.
Everton fell behind inside 60 seconds when Tyler Smith converted a cross from the right and Asmir Begovic made a fabulous stop on five minutes to limit the bleeding.
Demarai Gray equalised after 21 minutes and 10 minutes later Andre Gomes steamed into the box to power home a header, the Portuguese's first goal since February 2019, to turn the game on its head.
Everton, who gave a debut to Vitalii Mykolenko, appeared poised to run away with the game. But Ryan Longman came on to score a beautiful curling goal and completely open up the game with 19 minutes remaining.
The sides traded chances in a frantic conclusion to the 90 minutes. But as we moved into extra-time, the super-cool Townsend used all his poise and daring and experience to win the game for manager Benitez's team.
Everton were just about keeping their heads above water when Gray transformed the tone of the tie.
The winger trapped an aerial pass with the outside of his right boot, then began burrowing infield from the left.
Oddly, Hull initially let Gray get on with it, offering no attempt to check the Everton winger’s increasingly speedy run.
The hosts would have been alerted to the error of their ways when Gray arrived close to goal.
Suddenly the pace quickened, Gray a blur of movement as he fed Anthony Gordon and set off to collect the exquisite return pass.
Gray’s finish across Nathan Baxter was perfect, guided into the far corner and leaving the keeper helpless.
The impact on Everton, previously tentative, and counting Gray’s goal as their first attempt on target, was remarkable.
Hull had been fairly comfortable until this point. Everton, meanwhile, had looked to Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey to drive forward from the back to try to ignite a spark. Allan, too, was routinely emptying midfield when Everton had possession to provide an additional passing option through the middle.
But from minute 21, when Gray levelled, Everton began slicing through Hull at will.
They went in front after 31 minutes. In the intervening period, the away team created four opportunities of different shapes and sizes.
In some sort of order, they went like this.
Gordon steamed into the area on the right and cut back onto his left foot for a shot that clipped the base of the near post.
One minute later Baxter tumbled to his right to turn around Gray’s effort from distance.
Then an interesting one. Gordon’s first touch on Mykolenko’s deep cross smacked the hand of Jacob Greaves in the box.
A penalty would have been harsh on the unsuspecting Greaves but in the Premier League you rather suspect the incident slowed down on a pitchside monitor might have led to the referee pointing to the spot.
Who knows what Keane was doing bursting into the a central striking position after 28 minutes but the scene was indicative of Everton’s climbing confidence and authority.
Gordon, whose distribution was excellent throughout his 66 minutes on the field, found the defender for a shot Baxter did well to turn behind for a corner.
Hull’s banks broke soon after. Jonjoe Kenny, undeterred after a cross was cleared moments earlier, delivered into the middle where Gomes arrived to dive headfirst and connect too powerfully for Baxter to handle at close range.
A word at this point for Begovic, starting for the first time since the League Cup match at QPR on September 21.
There was little the keeper could have done when Smith headed in George Honeyman’s right-wing free-kick inside one minute to give the home side a flying start.
The damage would have been potentially ruinous four minutes later had Begovic not got the tips of his fingers to Tom Eaves’ strong header after Randell Williams hared down the right to lift in a cross.
Indeed, Hull’s initial tactics focused on trying to exploit space between debutant Mykolenko and left-sided centre-half Ben Godfrey.
Steadily, Everton worked out the problem for themselves and shut off that avenue of attack.
Equally, as time passed, Smith had less and less joy with his efforts at running onto balls hoiked over Everton’s backline.
Begovic made another good stop at 1-0, repelling an Eaves strike thrashed at the near post from close in.
Keane Lewis-Potter then created an opening to shoot but hurried a wayward shot that travelled a long way over.
Hull were never going to chuck it in once their lead was wiped out. Why would they? They were playing in front of their own fans and free of expectation, so continued to give it a go.
A long throw from the left two minutes after Gomes’ goal nearly resulted in Hull drawing level.
The robust Eaves applied a flick and when Greaves shovelled the ball goalwards it needed an astutely-positioned Mykolenko to clear from in front of the line.
Begovic saved again when the ball was recyled for Greg Docherty to take aim from 18 yards.
Gordon struck too high from a promising position inside the area shortly before half-time and Salomon Rondon was unable to gather in a slick Gray cross along the floor eight minutes after the restart.
Gordon and Gray linked up for Everton’s next chance, the pair reversing roles as Gray fed Gordon to smash a shot that Baxter fisted clear.
Meantime, Gray was crowded out close to goal after another driving run and a number of Hull defensive bodies joined to block a Gordon effort.
If this sounds like Everton were completely on top at this juncture, that is the correct impression.
The visitors had 10 shots by the hour mark and were dominating possession.
Keane’s reappearance in front of goal, screaming for a return ball as Gray saw his latest shot deflected behind, emphasised the visitors’ dominance.
Mykolenko swiped a strike too high when Godfrey redirected Gordon’s deep corner into the centre.
Grant McCann, the Hull manager, sensed his side being overrun and opted for a triple substitution on 63 minutes.
And McCann saw his changes pay dividends eight minutes later. Hull won possession in Everton’s half and one of the players sent on, George Moncur, passed to another, Longman, 20 yards from goal. He got the ball out of his feet and sent it on a trajectory starting beyond Begovic’s right post and arcing inwards to defeat the keeper who, for the second time in the match, didn’t have a hope.
Longman backheeled to set-up Lewis-Potter for a wayward drive, then, as the game began swinging from end-to-end, Gray flashed a curler from the left wide of the far post.
Everton were making changes of their own by now. Townsend was already on for Gordon when Benitez replaced Kenny with Aboulaye Doucoure and reverted to four at the back.
Hull came perilously close to regaining their lead on 83 minutes, nonetheless.
Lewis-Potter, errant with his shooting so far, collected Moncur’s pass to send a 16-yard drive skidding into the left post.
Doucoure couldn’t keep his header down when Townsend stood up a cross from the right, moments before Jean-Phillipe Gbamin went on in place of Gomes for a fourth appearance this term.
Gray showed up first for Everton in extra-time, embarking on a slaloming run from left to right but denied by Eaves, flinging his body between ball and goal.
Nothing Hull could do one minute later, however. Nothing they thought they needed to do, in all probability, when Townsend moved onto possession 25 yards out.
That was to reckon without the forward’s splendid long-range shooting, however.
Townsend drew encouragement from the hosts’ reluctance to close him down and sent an effort swerving beyond the grasping left glove of a leaping Baxter.
Rondon was prevented from racing clean through by Greaves’ last-ditch tackle.
But, much like the second half of normal time, just as Everton seemed set to assert their superiority, Hull rallied.
Begovic produced a tremendous reflex stop to deny Eaves from six yards at the height of the home team's riposte but Everton's one-goal advantage proved enough second time round.
Everton’s Reliable Sources Of Inspiration
Trailing 1-0 in front of a home support getting its blood up, Everton were in urgent need of inspiration.
And the identity of the players who combined for the visitors’ first piece of real quality would have surprised no regular observers of Rafa Benitez’s team.
Demarai Gray has been an unmitigated hit since joining from Bayer Leverkusen for a reported £1.7m, the absolute definition of a cut-price bargain.
He was Everton’s joint-top scorer with five prior to this, adding to two assists from 16 starts.
The returns are very good, then, but Gray offers plenty of intangible qualities, too.
He adds zip and dynamism to Everton’s attack, the type of thrust that stops opponents taking liberties with their defensive line.
What’s more, he’s damn good to watch. Gray moves elegantly across the turf, elusive and fast. He boasts a tremendous touch, too, and when he pulled a ball from the sky with the outside of his right boot on 21 minutes it appeared a piece of skill to appreciate, rather than one destined to alter the course of this contest.
Gray, though, accepted Hull’s invite to progress all the way from the left into the box and find Anthony Gordon, whose stated aim is to add greater final product to an explosive game.
Well, here, Gordon added to an assist at Chelsea a few weeks back and the two goals scored against Brighton six days ago with a pass perfectly weighted for Gray’s run.
The outcome from there was inevitable. Not that Gray’s task was especially straightforward, but this is a player whose personal confidence hasn’t suffered for wider events this term.
He looked assured shaping to shoot and delivered a finish to match that appearance, caressing sidefooted across Nathan Baxter in Hull’s goal.
It was Everton’s first shot on target, compared with the four accurate attempts by Hull at this stage.
But with that driving run and swipe of his right foot, Gray changed the early complexion of this Cup tie entirely.
Events had plotted a different course again by the time we reached extra-time, Everton dominance giving way to a Hull fightback and a Cup tie hanging in the balance.
It needed an individual to put his hand up and take responsibility for deciding the outcome.
Step forwards Andros Townsend, back in action fewer than four weeks after breaking a bone in his foot.
The 30-year-old had briefly fallen behind fellow forward Gray in Everton’s goalscoring standings.
But here he was, ball at feet, 25 yards out, launching a trademark Exocet to flummox Baxter and send more than 3,000 Evertonians wild.
If Gray was a bargain, then what price Townsend? Everton got him for nothing and what a good decision that was.
Begovic’s Key Contribution And New Boy Settles
Asmir Begovic was brought out of cold storage, here, handed a first start since the Carabao Cup game at QPR more than three months ago.
The keeper, who has the unenviable task of replacing England’s number one every time he plays, must have wondered what he was in for when a first-minute header from Tyler Smith flew into the net.
Begovic didn’t stand a chance of making a save and is too long in the tooth to worry unduly about a setback.
The value of experience shone through four minutes later, Begovic focused and athletic to react to Tom Eaves’ close-range header with a tremendous fingertip stop.
Two down after five minutes and this would have looked a very tall order for the away team.
There was another sharp save from Eaves’ belted drive at the near post before Everton levelled and, with Hull searching for a quick reply to Andre Gomes’ goal, Begovic dived full length to turn round an awkward drive from Greg Docherty.
The keeper was left helpless by Ryan Longman’s curling effort but was alert to prevent Smith fastening onto a loose ball in stoppage time.
For his final – and perhaps finest – act, Begovic repelled the disbelieving Eaves once more, the Bosnian flashing out a rock solid left hand to stop a murderous close-range shot.
Vitalli Mykolenko, meanwhile, made his Everton debut one week after a New Year’s Day arrival from Dynamo Kiev.
Ukraine international Mykolenko needed 20 minutes or so to get his bearings and deserves credit for solving early issues down Everton’s left side.
Fertile ground for Hull early on, that area of the pitch gradually became barren terrain for the home side.
Mykolenko was progressively more confident on the ball and embarked on a couple of forward raids. He might even have had a goal when lashing at Ben Godfrey’s penalty-box knockdown.
The 22-year-old lasted the 120 minutes without any obvious ill-effects, save for a very late rub of a tight muscle. and assuredly handled the threat of Longman after the substitute’s dramatic introduction.
Mykolenko will benefit enormously from this early and prolonged outing – and can reflect on a winning first appearance for his new club.
Everton Deliver Wrong Kind Of Upset
A missive from Hull City dispatched this week declared, “The press box will be much busier than usual for this game”.
The media interest was inevitable, national journalists descending on this bowl of a stadium for the same reason the Cup tie was broadcast on primetime terrestrial TV.
There was the scent of an upset in the air and that was fair enough. Everton’s form has been scratchy, while their Championship opponents won four and drew two of six games prior to narrow defeats in their past two matches.
Everton’s most recent FA Cup visit to a second-tier club, the fourth-round game at Millwall three years ago, ended in defeat, to boot.
These matches can have a ‘no-win’ feel for the favourites. Lose and expect a pile-on. Win and, well, so you should have.
This wasn’t one of those. The consequences of defeat would have stretched beyond an FA Cup exit and into further scrutiny of the team’s performances and results.
Everton tentatively began making strides before Christmas, beating Arsenal in exhilarating fashion and carving out a draw at Chelsea with a team unlikely to play together again.
Defeat by Brighton to start the new year represented a substantial setback, then, and this was an opportunity to take some forward steps.
Important players are steadily returning to the fold and the opportune acquisitions of young full-backs Nathan Patterson and Vitalii Mykolenko have injected energy and exuberance.
Everton added to those positive developments by recovering from a sticky start – and overcoming a mid-second-half home resurgence – to ultimately plot a path into round four.
It wasn’t the outcome the TV cameras and journalists were in town to cover.
But this was exactly what Everton needed from their first trip to Hull since December 2016.
Manager Rafa Benitez’s team will go into Tuesday’s Premier League meeting with Leicester City accompanied by an extra dash of confidence – and knowing who awaits in the FA Cup fourth round.
All told, a productive evening’s work.