Everton had to come from behind to beat Sunderland at Goodison Park to remain in the Premier League top-four.
David Moyes’ men had failed to win in their last four games but showed great resolve to recover from going a goal down to earn all three points despite losing Kevin Mirallas to injury in the first half.
As for the Black Cats they now sit just a place above the relegation, three points ahead of Reading who they must face in a re-arranged fixture that is already shaping up to be an early season six-pointer.
Martin O’Neill’s shot shy side were the division’s lowest scorers heading into the game but had the best of the first half chances with leading scorer Steven Fletcher and midfielder Jack Colback particularly wasteful in front of goal.
At the other end goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was well shielded by John O’Shea and Carlos Cuellar and was only called into action to repel a fierce Steven Pienaar drive at his near post before diving to palm away Phil Neville’s rasping 30-yard drive.
They proved to be crucial saves as just before the break Cuellar clipped a Nikica Jelavic’s weak clearance back into the area for Adam Johnson to steal in behind Leon Osman and fire past Tim Howard from close range.
But the visitors failed to build on their advantage and rode their luck twice just after the break as Johnny Hetinga saw his header cleared off the line by Johnson before nodding Leighton Baines’ free kick wide.
It was going to take something special to break Sunderland’s resistance and it came in the 76th minute as Marouane Fellaini turned sharply on Steven Naismith’s pass before arrowing the ball through a crowd and into the bottom corner.
Fellaini turned provider three minutes later, flicking the ball through O’Shea’s legs and into the path of the on rushing Jelavic, who cooly slotted the ball past Mignolet to secure the points and extend Moyes’ unbeaten run over the away side to 18 games.