Ron Atkinson put three of his new signings into a new back four marshalled quite superbly by his old favourite, Carlton Palmer. They will face sterner tests than this, because there is nothing in football more impotent just now than Everton's attack at Goodison, but this could be the start of a serious stab at avoiding the drop.
"I've been in dressing-rooms at Wembley with a trophy in them and there wasn't an atmosphere like the one in ours tonight," said Atkinson. "Our biggest problem was knowing what to do when we won."
As they last did so in the Premiership at the end of August, that lapse of memory is understandable.
"We rode our luck at times," Atkinson admitted. "But when you contest and believe, you sometimes get your luck."
Forest needed a little of that precious commodity in the first half when another of their newcomers, Staale Stensaas, got in the way of Nick Barmby's goal-bound effort and when Dave Beasant made the first of his excellent saves from John Oster's rising shot.
Given Everton's monumental difficulties in creating chances, they needed to take one of those. Their failure left them vulnerable when Forest hit them on the break in the second half, Jean-Claude Darcheville racing down the left and Alan Rogers squaring the ball for the unmarked Van Hooijdonk to take as much time as he wanted to tee it up and score.
Van Hooijdonk's performance had been strange. At times he had looked barely interested and one inept touch and a volley into the ground from an almost equally inviting chance shortly before his goal had seen the Forest corner of the ground begin to jeer him. When he put away his fourth goal of his truncated season, however, the reception was rather different.
Forest could have gone two up on the hour when Steve Stone and Darcheville split the increasingly unstable Everton defence only for Thomas Myhre to get a boot to Stone's low shot. But an Everton side revamped by the appearance of Ibrahima Bakayoko, Michael Branch and Olivier Dacourt, hurled themselves forward in search of a face-saving equaliser.
Bakayoko had a header beaten out by Beasant and Barmby slid the loose ball across the face of goal. David Unsworth, thrown forward as an extra attacker, put an overhead kick over the bar, but Everton had their best chances of all in the six minutes of injury time that must have seemed an eternity to a side as desperate for a victory as Forest.
Beasant saved superbly again from Barmby and Bakayoko shot past a post, but Forest, anchored by a display from Palmer that Atkinson described as "immense", held on and Everton were booed off by the increasingly disenchanted Goodison faithful.
Losing at home to the bottom club represents the nadir of an already depressing season and, with three of the bottom four winning, the fear of being dragged into another relegation dogfight is real.
Their manager, Walter Smith, claims not to be fazed by that prospect. "Everton have fought relegation in five years out of the last six," he said. "That is the situation I started from."
But unlike Atkinson, Smith has been told that he has no money available with which to repair an ailing squad, not even for a desperately needed striker who could be relied upon for a few goals.Reuse content