The final ball from both sides was so frequently terminal that the better finishing was, predictably and effectively, the decisive factor. West Ham had the possession and chances but were denied by two typically stunning saves from Neville Southall. His opposite number, Ludek Miklosko, will rue the fact that a Gary Speed goal which sneaked under his body proved fatal.
Home tension was intensified when Andy Hinchcliffe tripped Hugo Porfirio, Julian Dicks blasting home the penalty. The 22-year-old Portuguese forward, in his first Premiership start, had taunted the Everton defence with slippery dribbling and a centre of gravity lower than a sausage dog. Another claim for a penalty in the opening stages was ignored.
Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, said: "We had an awful lot of the game and to come away with nothing was very disappointing. The second goal was a mistake by the keeper. We are very close to being a very decent side and if Hugo continues to play like that he's going to set the place alight."
Everton's opener owed much to good fortune. Joe Parkinson, with his final involvement before limping off with a hamstring injury, was allowed to inch forward to the edge of the area before unleashing a shot which squirted out to Hinchcliffe on the left.
Graham Stuart reacted first to a cross drilled across the six-yard area, sliding in at the far post for the kill.
Southall leapt and twisted to tip over Ian Dowie's dipping volley and the visitors' best move of the game resulted in a corner, from which a Dicks point-blank header again inspired Southall to excellence.
Speed's goal was the result of rare Everton cohesion, the midfielder released into the area following pinball one-touch football on the left flank. "With the injuries we've been having we are a bit disjointed at times. We have played better and lost this season," was the Everton manager Joe Royle's realistic assessment.Reuse content