Everton tasted their second defeat at Bournemouth in a week on a difficult afternoon on the south coast.
A bright opening from the Blues was cut short by a Marcus Tarvernier opener on 18 minutes before Kieffer Moore added a controversial second midway through the first half as James Tarkowski was down on the floor with a head injury.
VAR looked at a Lewis Cook challenge on Amadou Onana seconds before the break, only for the Bournemouth midfielder to end up with a yellow card.
The Blues created half-chances in an attempt to fight back but the hosts sealed the points 20 minutes from time through substitute Jaidon Anthony’s header, four days after Everton's Carabao Cup exit to the same opponents.
It left Everton heading into the World Cup break on a losing note as they return to competitive action against Wolves at Goodison Park on Boxing Day.
Frank Lampard made two changes from the Blues’ previous league outing against Leicester City as Nathan Patterson replaced Seamus Coleman at right-back and Neal Maupay came in for the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin to lead the Blues’ attack.
After plenty of early Blues possession, it was Maupay who had the game’s first chance on four minutes when a flowing move involving Alex Iwobi, Amadou Onana and Demarai Gray resulted in the winger picking out the Frenchman in the area from the left wing. Maupay had time to take a touch and turn before firing a finish over the bar from 12 yards out.
More attacking intent followed, this time from the right flank as the returning Patterson created room to whip in a dangerous cross that was inches away from being headed home by Maupay.
Having dominated early on, the Blues were put under pressure from Bournemouth’s counter-attacks and were thankful to Onana on 15 minutes when the midfielder tracked back into the area and nicked the ball off Dominic Solanke as he cut inside and shaped to shoot.
Bournemouth did take the lead three minutes later, though, as Solanke tried his luck from the edge of the area and, when Pickford parried the ball, Tarvernier was on hand to slot home the rebound.
It got worse for Everton on 25 minutes as the hosts doubled their lead in controversial circumstances. James Tarkowski went down a yard from his own goalline as he attempted to head clear. As play was allowed to continue despite the defender’s head injury, Solanke clawed the ball back into play from the byline and, when Tarvernier nodded across goal, Moore planted a header into the roof of the net from close range.
As Lampard and his backroom team questioned officials on why play was allowed to continue, Vitalii Mykolenko was forced off with an injury sustained in the build-up to the second goal, with captain Coleman replacing the Ukrainian.
Everton had to force their way back into the contest and went close five minutes before the break, slick first-time passing between Gray and Maupay allowing Iwobi to drive towards goal but, when well placed on the edge of the area, the Nigerian’s low curled finish lacked power and was held by Mark Travers.
There was still time for Bournemouth to threaten again, Solanke collecting a knock-down in the area, turning and drilling a low finish past the left-hand post.
And more was to follow in first-half injury-time as Maupay went down in the area under a challenge from Marcos Senesi as the forward tried to turn his marker, before Lewis Cook left Onana in agony following a late challenge on halfway. After a VAR check for a possible red card, the Bournemouth midfielder was booked instead as a miserable opening half for Everton came to a close.
Lampard’s men needed a strong response after the interval and it came within seconds of the restart, Onana surging through midfield, beating three Bournemouth players to work his way into the area. His pass across goal was touched on by Maupay but, when the ball fell to Gana, the Senegalese blasted a shot over the bar.
Bournemouth continued to threaten, though, and went close to putting the game beyond doubt five minutes later when Tarvenier collected a pass from the right and curled a finish from the edge of the area that needed Pickford to claw it away from finding the left-hand corner.
A moment of magic was fast becoming a must for Everton and, after Tarkowski headed McNeil’s corner on to the roof of the net, it nearly came just after the hour mark as Patterson reacted first to Moore’s nodded clearance and smacked a sweet 20-yard volley narrowly over the bar.
But any route back into match was ended with 20 minutes to go when Cook’s free-kick from the left picked out substitute Jaidon Anthony to head past Pickford.
It looked to be 4-0 moments later, Billing sliding in Solanke to finish, only for the linesman to raise his offside flag.
With 16 minutes to go, Lampard made three changes, Tom Cannon coming on for his Premier League debut in place of Maupay, with Anthony Gordon and Abdoulaye Doucoure switching for Onana and McNeil.
Cannon nearly made an instant impact, Gordon swinging in a pinpoint cross for his fellow Academy graduate to plant a powerful header that was held by Travers.
Nineteen-year-old striker Cannon continued to show nice touches in an encouraging cameo but Everton could not create another opening to give them a glimmer of hope on a frustrating afternoon.