Sunderland had the misfortune yesterday of finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. They contributed to their own demise with uncharacteristic charity, much to the dismay of their manager, Peter Reid, once an inspirational player here.
He was a helpless bystander as Don Hutchison, the most influential member of the current Everton team, effectively consigned Sunderland to defeat within 25 minutes.
The Scotland international, who hopes Bill Kenwright's control of the club will pave the way to the new contract he seeks, demonstrated the sublime and ruthless streak of his nature with two stunning goals.
Francis Jeffers extended Everton's lead before half-time, and Mark Pembridge and Kevin Campbell completed the annihilation.
Sunderland's task was scarcely helped by an injury which deprived them of the services of their leading scorer, Kevin Phillips, but they had glaring deficiencies in every department. Kevin Kilbane, assigned to support Niall Quinn in the first half, was no more culpable than a fragile defence and an overwhelmed midfield.
It would be hasty to suggest this result has scuppered any realistic prospect of Champions' League football on Wearside next season, but tomorrow's home match against Manchester United assumes ever greater significance for Reid and his team.
Pembridge's lack of control spoiled a wonderfully flowing, incisive early move by Everton. Barmby and Campbell combined to switch play from their own half to space on the left, only for Pembridge to be muscled off the ball by Nicky Summerbee.
Pembridge atoned for his carelessness in the 16th minute by playing a crucial part in the creation of Hutchison's first goal. Again Everton found the left flank fertile ground and Pembridge's low ball into the area arrived at the feet of his captain, who placed it wide of Thomas Sorensen with absolute conviction.
Hutchison's second, nine minutes later, was dispatched with equal assurance after Sunderland merely half cleared a free kick from David Unsworth. Stefan Schwarz hesitated, Hutchison did not, striking the ball fiercely beyond Sorensen's right hand.
Jeffers might have scored between those two goals. Instead he took the ball too wide of Sorensen and all routes to colleagues were cut off by Sunderland's back-tracking defenders.
The striker, presented with a club "Young Player of the Year" award before the match, settled for a more direct course when Richard Gough, restored to the defence, demonstrated his versatility with an exquisite through ball. This time Jeffers, darting into the gap, shot past the advancing Sorensen and Everton were three up.
Sunderland mustered only token responses in that one-sided first half, Quinn's flicked header stretched Paul Gerrard and Schwarz warmed the goalkeeper's hands from distance.
Most of their play floundered in midfield, where Everton's greater appetite and superior craft denied them the scope to develop their familiar, efficient and productive moves.
Reid sacrificed Michael Gray to send on Michael Reddy after the interval in an attempt to salvage something from the seemingly hopeless cause.
Their plight could have been compounded after 54 minutes, when Chris Makin's line of communication with Sorensen broke down and Jeffers was given a glimpse of goal. He chastised himself for stabbing the ball wide.
Sunderland's reprieve was brief. Hutchison's delightful pass put Campbell through and, although he was repelled, Jeffers provided Pembridge with a simple fourth after 61 minutes.
Barmby's chip deserved a goal but Makin intervened. Campbell refused to be deprived by Paul Butler and made it five after 72 minutes.
Reid admitted: "We've had a bit of a battering. They were on fire. They won all the battles all over the pitch and we paid the penalty. We've got to put that out of our minds. I'm sure we'll play better on Tuesday. We got a mauling at Chelsea on the first day and it's how you react."
Goals: Hutchison (1-0) 16; Hutchison (2-0) 25; Jeffers (3-0) 41; Pembridge (4-0) 61; Campbell (5-0) 72.
Everton (4-4-2): Gerrard; Dunne, Weir, Gough, Unsworth; Barmby (Cleland, 75), Hutchison, Collins, Pembridge; Jeffers (Moore, 75), Campbell. Substitutes not used: Watson, Cadamarteri, Simonsen (gk).
Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen; Makin, Butler, Bould, Gray (Reddy, h-t); Summerbee, McCann, Roy (Williams, 33), Schwarz; Quinn, Kilbane. Substitutes not used: Marriott (gk), Rae, Oster.
Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley). Bookings: Everton Weir. Sunderland Kilbane, McCann.
Man of the match: Hutchison.
Attendance: 40,017.Reuse content