Theo Walcott’s maiden Everton goals secured a first win in eight matches as a 2-1 triumph over Leicester arrested their slide under Sam Allardyce.
The £20million January signing became the first Toffees player to score twice in his maiden Premier League appearance at Goodison Park since Romelu Lukaku against Newcastle in September 2013 with a first-half double.
Jamie Vardy’s penalty midway through the second half set up a nervous finish but Everton clung on to inflict the Foxes’ first defeat of 2018 as they squandered the chance to close the gap on sixth-placed Arsenal.
Despite saying a couple of weeks ago Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson could not play in the same side Allardyce picked both, opting to give the former a deeper role in midfield.
Offensively it worked with Walcott, a willing runner, a frequent beneficiary but it cannot be considered even a medium-term solution as there are too many questions posed when Everton are not in possession.
Defender Seamus Coleman made his first appearance in an Everton shirt for 319 days after recovering from a double fracture of his leg while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland last March.
Allardyce still obviously has some concerns about the defence, however, and while this match was being played, a deal to sign Manchester City centre-back Eliaquim Mangala on loan was being thrashed out.
Conversely, the opposition were left to rue an absence as they were without Riyad Mahrez, for whom a move did not materialise for the second deadline day running after Manchester City did not follow up their interest after baulking at the Foxes’ asking price.
At first it did not appear to impact Claude Puel’s side as they dominated and almost took a 10th-minute lead when Wilfrid Ndidi’s header bounced back off the crossbar.
It was from another visitors’ corner midway through the half that Everton took the lead with a counter-attack eventually leading to Cuco Martina dispossessing Ben Chilwell on the edge of the Leicester penalty area, allowing Sigurdsson to cut back for the onrushing Walcott.
His second was equally as clinical, six minutes before half-time, as he volleyed in from close range after Michael Keane had headed Rooney’s pass back across goal, the first time he had scored twice in a league match since October 2016.
The same could not be said for Oumar Niasse with the Senegal international missing the target from 10 yards and then taking a heavy touch when clean through on goal after robbing Harry Maguire straight from the kick-off either side of Walcott’s second.
For once Everton looked in control until the 72nd minute, when Rooney was penalised for tugging at Ndidi’s shirt and Vardy converted from the spot, Leicester’s first shot on target.
The hosts were rattled and so was the frame of the goal as Foxes substitute Kelechi Iheanacho hit the crossbar and then the post from a corner from a combined distance of five yards.