Everton collected nothing from the first half of a five-day Goodison Park double header – and must now dust themselves down in time for a visit from Newcastle United on Thursday.
This contest, against Wolverhampton Wanderers, was decided by Conor Coady’s header four minutes after half-time.
Everton, who finished the match with 10 men after Jonjoe Kenny was sent off with 12 minutes remaining, following two yellow cards inside 180 seconds, played most of their best football in the opening 45 minutes.
Jose Sa saved one-on-one from Richarlison when the alternative outcome might have generated optimism and momentum.
Wolves, meanwhile, were restricted to very few opportunities before half-time. Coady's strike changed the course of the game, however, and despite manager Frank Lampard changing formation after sending on Dele for wing-back Vitalii Mykolenko on 58 minutes, Wolves retained a measure of control.
The Midlands side have the Premier League's fourth best away record and are positioned fourth in the best defence charts, too. They are a tough nut to crack and Everton's task became even more demanding when playing a man down.
Everton created the game’s first clear opening after six minutes.
Richarlison, operating at central striker with Dominic Calvert-Lewin under the weather, appeared in the mood.
The Brazilian controlled a ball with his chest and directed a looping volley narrowly off target inside 30 seconds.
Now he was sprinting away, released down the left by Vitalii Mykolenko and bearing down on goal.
Sa, however, the goalkeeper beaten only 23 times in 28 Premier League games prior to this match, spread himself to foil the visibly annoyed Everton attacker.
Richarlison’s countenance hadn’t been much helped a few minutes earlier, mind, Coady’s bodycheck stopping the South American’s formerly rapid progress upfield. Wolves, in those early minutes, were betraying a general feeling of discomfort.
Demarai Gray took the free-kick but with Sa set to claim, Coady intervened to head behind.
The visitors’ issues, however, by and large concerned the beleaguered figure of Hwang Hee-chan.
The South Korean forward was up and down like a jack in a box, genuinely hurt after sustaining a blow but hell bent on trying to continue.
Goodison was audibly irked by the stopping and starting and, at one point, Hwang held up both hands, offering an apology that the Gwladys Street inhabitants declined to accept.
Anyway, Hwang eventually went off, replaced by Daniel Podence after 16 minutes, and Everton continued to shade the match.
The ball got away from Gray as he tried to collect Seamus Coleman’s cut back, inviting Sa to turn behind.
Gray, given set-piece duties on his return to the team, hung over the corner, but when it was recycled for another returning home player in Ben Godfrey, the shot flashed past Sa’s left post.
In the next passage of play, on 23 minutes, Anthony Gordon burst down the right, Romain Saiss unable to keep pace with the rapid 21-year-old, but Sa alert to snaffle the delivery ahead of the lurking Richarlison.
Trying to make headway through the middle of the pitch, for Everton, felt like an object in banging your head against a brick wall.
Wolves have three physical, disciplined centre-halves, who all enjoy defending. In front of them are three midfielders, scuttling and disrupting, but very sharp on the turnover.
When an Everton player in possession lifted his head, then, the view was repeatedly filled with a bank of old gold.
Gordon managed to slide a pass between defenders but space was at a premium and Sa was quickly out to smother in front of Coleman.
There was an element of spice threaded through the game, right from the Hwang episode. Coleman took issue with a few Wolves players for a perceived injustice around the same time and, later in the half, the sight of Podence and Jordan Pickford squabbling while waiting for a corner epitomised the teams’ fractious relations.
What of Pickford in the opening half? He was barely needed. There was one low drive from Moutinho that Pickford collected like a cricket fielder scooping up a forward defensive.
And when Raul Jimenez might have tested the keeper following Moutinho’s chipped pass, the striker opted to attempt the spectacular and sent a bicycle-kick attempt whizzing over the bar.
Wolves got themselves in a tangle trying to execute a training ground free-kick after Mykolenko fouled Jonny Castro Otto minutes after the restart.
So when the visitors earned another set-piece in a promising position, this one on the left, after Kenny tripped Leander Dendoncker, Moutinho lifted it into a crowed penalty area.
Dendoncker picked up Richarlison’s clearance on the opposite flank to feed Neves. He took a couple of steps forwards, then planted the cross on the head of Coady, whose finish flew across Pickford.
Jimenez couldn’t wrap his foot around Moutinho’s next free-kick, the ball speeding past the near post.
The slight Podence skipped through the centre of the field to arrow an effort wide of goal on the left – that one moments after Max Kilman’s last-ditch defending thwarted Richarlison’s attempt to connect with a Coleman centre.
Richarlison was offside when he headed against the top of the bar from a fabulous Gordon delivery.
Lampard tore up his original gameplan on 58 minutes. Mykoleno made way for Dele, who provided an extra body in midfield, while Everton flexed to a back four.
Richarlison went slightly too early again before Sa clawed the ball off the 24-year-old’s feet, the linesman’s flag shooting up as soon as the ball was dead.
The same Everton player was inches wide with his next try, the ball scooting off Richarlison’s left foot and into the side netting outside Sa’s right post.
Dele was an increasing influence on the game, meanwhile. The former Spurs player knows when to delve into his array of flicks and tricks for the common good, while the midfielder’s passing is crisp and positive.
He tried to time runs behind a Wolves’ defensive line that began to steadily retreat the closer the visitors got to their three points.
Everton’s task grew harder when Kenny was sent off following two cautions in three minutes. The first booking was for a foul on Jonny, Jimenez the wronged party for Kenny’s second yellow card.
Those two fouls sandwiched a strike from Kenny that raced over the bar.
Neves drove straight at Pickford from 12 yards and substitute Trincao sent a strike dripping over the bar, as Wolves tried to open up a conclusive gap.
And their failure to take advantage gave Everton a glimmer of optimism in the last of four minutes of stoppage time when Moutinho tripped Coleman on the 18-yard line.
Andros Townsend, on for Gray, sent the dead ball travelling the wrong side of the post and Everton’s last hope of rescuing a point disappeared.