Everton went above their fierce rivals from across Stanley Park, Liverpool, for the first time since September, just two weeks before the two clubs face each in their FA Cup semi-final clash, by defeating a lacklustre West Bromwich at Goodison Park.
A Gareth McAuley own goal and Victor Anichebe's first home Premier League strike since August 2007 ensured victory for Everton. David Moyes' men have now only lost twice in their last 15 outings and are up to seventh. The visitors rarely threatened Tim Howard's goal in a display typical of a side who have little to play for.
"We did the job, but I saw signs of fatigue, more mental than physical," said Moyes after the game. "If you said to me at the start of the season we'd be seventh now, I wouldn't have believed you after the difficult summer we had."
Following a slow start to the game, Everton produced the match's first piece of free-flowing football in the 18th minute, which led to the opener. Nikica Jelavic exchanged passes with Leon Osman on the edge of the area, before the Everton stalwart struck a left-footed shot, which deflected off McAuley's knee, leaving a deceived Ben Foster helpless as the ball looped into the net.
Maroune Fellaini almost doubled the home side's lead 10 minutes later when he collected a headed clearance 25 yards out; the Belgian midfielder controlled the ball with his chest, allowing him to unleash a low drive, which the in-form Foster tipped smartly round the post, as he continues to show what the England squad is missing.
Croatian Jelavic was lucky to avoid being dismissed early in the second half by referee Peter Walton, officiating in his final Premier League game before retiring to take up a managerial role in the United States, when the striker led with his elbow in a challenge with Liam Ridgewell, but was only cautioned for the offence.
A piercing cross-field run from Steven Pienaar, with the West Bromwich defence allowing him to advance unchallenged, allowed the South African to play the ball into the feet of the substitute Anichebe, who struck the ball across Foster and into the bottom corner from the right-hand edge of the area in the 69th minute to net his second against Albion this season.
Roy Hodgson thinks that his side still haven't guaranteed their survival. He said: "I don't think we need more than four points, but we've got seven games to get them.
"The intensity of our game was quite good and I was rather hoping we'd get something out of it, but now we have a sinking feeling and we need to make sure we get up for the next home game."
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Heitinga, Baines, Osman (Gueye, 46), Gibson, Fellaini, Pienaar, Cahill (Anichebe, 63), Jelavic (McFadden, 87)
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Foster, Jones, Olsson, McAuley, Ridgewell, Tchoyi (Fortune, 73), Andrews, Scharner (Dorrans, 67), Brunt (Cox, 77), Long, Odemwingie
Referee Peter Walton.
Man of the match Pienaar (Everton).
Match rating 4/10.Reuse content