Everton kept in the fight for Premier League survival after battling back to earn a 2-2 draw in an enthralling encounter at Leicester City.
After a hugely-impressing opening, the Blues took a deserved lead on 15 minutes when Dominic Calvert-Lewin was barged over in the area and smashed home the resulting penalty.
Despite being second best for much of the opening half, Leicester somehow went ahead through Caglar Soyuncu and Jamie Vardy goals and it could have been worse for Sean Dyche’s men had Jordan Pickford not saved James Maddison’s penalty before the break.
That gave Everton a crucial lifeline and they took full advantage when Alex Iwobi volleyed home 10 minutes after the restart, with the visitors desperately unlucky not to come away from the East Midlands with all three points.
The night was soured when captain Seamus Coleman was taken off on a stretcher shortly before Iwobi’s leveller.
Coleman had returned to the starting XI after missing the past three matches with a hamstring injury, making his 352nd Premier League appearance for Everton to put him level with Leon Osman and just two behind Tim Howard’s Club record.
The only other change from Thursday’s match against Newcastle saw James Garner replace Amadou Onana in midfield, with the Belgium international named on the bench after suffering from illness in recent days.
An electric atmosphere – heightened by typically-superb backing from 3,286 travelling Evertonians – set the scene for this crunch clash and it was the Blues who raced out of the blocks.
With seven minutes gone, a corner found its way to Idrissa Gana Gueye on the edge of the area as the midfielder had time to take a touch and blast a shot over the bar.
Dyche’s men went even closer a minute later, a well-worked move enabling Abdoulaye Doucoure to slide a pass across the area for Iwobi to smash a first-time finish that keeper Daniel Iversen somehow palmed wide.
The resulting corner then led to a goalmouth scramble that nearly ended with Michael Keane turning home with his back to goal.
There was to be no denying Everton just before the quarter-hour mark, though. Coleman chipped a cross into the area which Calvert-Lewin controlled with his shoulder and, as he turned Timothy Castagne, the striker was barged over in the area by the Belgian.
Referee Michael Oliver had no hesitation in awarding the spot-kick as Calvert-Lewin picked himself up and blasted home the opener from 12 yards.
A deserved advantage gained, the Blues continued to pile on the pressure. Iwobi’s slide pass ended with Calvert-Lewin squeezing a shot in at goal that deflected behind for a corner and, from the set piece, Keane nodded McNeil’s delivery inches wide.
Having dominated the contest, however, Leicester hit back on 22 minutes against the run of play. A 35-yard free-kick was whipped in from the right by James Maddison which found Harvey Barnes at the back post. The midfielder sent the ball into the danger area, Wout Faes nodded down and Soyuncu finished past Pickford.
It was so harsh on Everton after such an impressive start but matters were to get worse shortly after McNeil turned and drilled wide inside the area when crossing to Calvert-Lewin seemed the better option.
On 33 minutes, Iwobi looked to break into Leicester’s half only for Youri Tielemans to intercept his pass, allowing Maddison to slide Vardy clean through on goal, and the striker rounded Pickford to give the hosts the lead.
This match was far from over and it really should have been all square again heading into the interval.
First, Calvert-Lewin’s neat flick played in Coleman whose cross found McNeil eight yards out, only for the winger to see his finish saved by Iversen before Doucoure smashed the rebound over the bar.
The next chance was an even better one for Everton, McNeil showing a superb first touch to break into the area and cut across goal where Calvert-Lewin hit his finish from point-blank range into the body of Iversen.
As the Blues rued a missed opportunity, Leicester broke straight up the other end as Vardy was clear again – but this time when he rounded Pickford, the striker could only clip his shot on to the bar.
A breathless first half ended on a real low note when Coleman fell awkwardly after a challenge by Boubakary Soumare and needed to be taken off on a stretcher to be replaced by Nathan Patterson.
As the hugely-respected captain was given an ovation around the King Power, there was still time for another telling piece of action on the pitch. Leicester countered once more, finishing with Barnes trying his luck from inside the area as his shot hit the outstretched arm of Keane.
Again, referee Oliver pointed straight to the spot but, unlike Calvert-Lewin, Maddison couldn’t convert his penalty as Pickford stood tall to punch his centred effort away.
Iversen continued to thwart Everton from finding a way back into the match seven minutes after the restart when Iwobi slid another pass into Calvert-Lewin whose first-time drive from a wide angle inside the area was blocked by the Leicester keeper’s legs.
The Blues finally found a deserved leveller moments later, though. McNeil drifted a right-wing cross into the area, Calvert-Lewin rose high to nod into the path of Iwobi who produced a sweet first-time volley beyond Iversen from 12 yards out.
The game was wide open and Leicester should have retaken the lead just before the hour mark as the lively Barnes crossed in and Vardy saw his goalbound header from six yards kept out by Tarkowski.
The drama was relentless as two teams desperate for victory traded blows. Barnes and Tielemans both had fierce drives blocked when well placed on the edge of the area, while McNeil had a pop from 25 yards out into the arms of Iversen.
A rapid counter with 15 minutes remaining then saw Iwobi feed McNeil from the right touchline who, in acres of space, watched his shot deflect behind for a corner.
Iwobi looked the most likely to score again for Everton in the closing stages, twice having 20-yard drives deflect behind for a corner, the second set piece resulting in Keane nodding over.
It was so nearly a priceless winner with three minutes left on the clock. Another swift Blues counter saw Garner make space for himself 20 yards out before the ball found Dououre who, from the edge of the area, twisted and smacked a curling finish that was heading for the bottom left-hand corner, only for Iversen to turn around the post.
Everton ended the match looking far stronger and, while their efforts couldn’t produce a third goal, the reception they received at full-time from their loyal and vocal fanbase told them everything about the effort and fight they had shown all night.