Leon Osman's last-minute winner gave Everton a crucial victory against injury-hit Southampton.
Everton had wasted a succession of opportunities before the midfield man scrambled home from 12 yards following Thomas Gravesen's long throw.
It was no more than Everton deserved after keeping Southampton under constant pressure, with Marcus Bent wasting a succession of chances.
But it was also cruel on Saints, who mounted stubborn resistance.
David Moyes received his manager of the month award prior to kick-off, when he was given a standing ovation from Everton's fans.
Tim Cahill recovered from Jamie Redknapp's horror tackle to take his place in Everton's line-up, but Southampton's injury-hit side was depleted even further when Claus Lundekvam was ruled out through illness an hour before the game.
And Bent wasted two good early opportunities to give Everton a first-half lead.
He was sent clear by Gravesen after 14 minutes, but unselfishly chose to cross rather than shoot and the chance was gone.
And he then fired well over from 10 yards after good work by Cahill.
Australian Cahill wasted the clearest opening of the half five minutes before the break when he shot over the bar from close range with only Antti Niemi to beat.
Bent almost gave Everton the lead after 47 minutes after another delightful ball from Gravesen, but Andreas Jakobsson recovered to clear off the line.
Southampton's 18-year-old league debutant Leon Best was replaced after 64 minutes by the more experienced Paul Telfer.
Bent was not having the best of afternoons in front of goal, and he was the villain again when he shot weakly against Niemi as he ran on to Osman's pass.
Southampton were battling magnificently to keep Everton out, and the Merseysiders made a double substitution with 13 minutes left.
Scottish duo Duncan Ferguson and James McFadden replaced Cahill and Kevin Kilbane.
And Everton finally broke the deadlock in the dying seconds, when Osman popped up in the penalty area to fire past Niemi as Southampton failed to deal with Gravesen's long throw.
Everton: Martyn, Hibbert, Stubbs, Weir, Pistone,
Kilbane (McFadden 77), Gravesen, Cahill (Ferguson 77), Carsley,
Osman, Bent (Watson 89).
Subs Not Used: Wright, Yobo.
Goals: Osman 88.
Southampton: Niemi, Kenton, Nilsson, Jakobsson, Van Damme,
Anders Svensson, Delap, Prutton, McCann, Best (Telfer 64),
Subs Not Used: Higginbotham, Blayney, Fernandes, Griffit.
Ref: B Knight (Kent).