The protagonists, Everton's Francis Jeffers and the visitors' Kevin Davies, have created, for contrasting reasons, enough column inches to warrant a serialisation as a Dickensian epic.
Jeffers showed why his manager, Walter Smith, has been so keen to retain his services, and now there are great expectations resting on his slight shoulders. His all-round play, particularly in tandem with his equally effervescent strike partner, Kevin Campbell, was incisive and, should the pair's team-mates adapt swiftly to their strengths, rather than dally, as they too often did, then Smith's assertion that they will prove dangerous and grab goals throughout the campaign is one to be taken seriously.
Jeffers struck the third of Everton's goals, a low drive from the right after being played in by Campbell, and claimed a touch on his accomplice's strike which had fallen kindly following a penalty box scramble.
Richard Gough had opened the scoring with a brave header and the advantage was doubled when, under pressure from Campbell, Claus Lundekvam clipped over his goalkeeper, Paul Jones.
Davies' single meaningful contribution to his team's sterile, if battling display, was to take advantage of Gough's slip and deliver a cross for Marian Pahars to stab past Paul Gerrard.
His return to Southampton, where, when free from injury, he had provided enough food for thought for the former Blackburn manager Roy Hodgson to shell out pounds 7m, has been glibly chuckled over.
No doubt the player and the manager, Dave Jones, who has come to his rescue, will be hoping for the last laugh. But, on the evidence of Saturday's showing, it could be some time. "He needs to rebuild," Jones said. "He has no confidence, he is very nervous and, if anything, he's trying too hard."
With the fans' favourite James Beattie, another former Blackburn misfit, due back from injury next week, Davies will have to prove he deserves a place in the side, otherwise his future may be as bleak as the unfortunates who litter the tomes of Mr Dickens.
Goals: Gough (36) 1-0; Lundekvam (og 47) 2-0; Jeffers (48) 3-0; Campbell (54) 4-0; Pahars (70) 4-1.
Everton (4-4-2): Gerrard; Dunne, Weir, Gough, Unsworth; Barmby, Hutchison (Gemmill, 65), Collins, Pembridge (Cadamarteri, 77); Jeffers (Ward, 77), Campbell. Substitutes not used: Phelan, Simonsen (gk).
Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Hiley, Richards, Lundekvam, Benali; Ripley, Hughes, Soltvedt, Kachloul (Bridge, 57); Pahars (Bradley, 76), Davies. Substitutes not used: Moss (gk), Almeida, Oakley.
Referee: B Knight (Orpington).
Bookings: Everton: Hutchison. Southampton: Hughes, Davies.
Man of the match: Jeffers.
Attendance: 31,775.Reuse content