Midfielder Steven Pienaar, scorer of Everton's stunning second goal in the 3-1 victory over Reading on Saturday, admits the club may need to use the "back door" to secure European football at Goodison Park for next season.
Everton's hopes of claiming a Champions League place took a knock last month but they still have an outside chance of finishing fourth.
Even if they do not make it into the elite competition, they should be strong contenders to bring continental football back to the club via the Europa League, through league position or the FA Cup, in which they face Wigan on Saturday in the sixth round. Everton have not played in Europe since the 2009-10 season.
"Sometimes you have to go through the back door, so there is a little less pressure on us now," Pienaar said. "We will see how the other teams do and, hopefully, we can sneak in.
"I think it is fairly good to play in European competitions. After the Premier League there are only two bigger cups – the Europa League and the Champions League. All the players want to play in it and it is important for the club to get European football.
"We will just see. The Cup is the shortest route to European football. Next week [in the FA Cup] we are also at Goodison so, hopefully, this can be the place that gives us the passport to European football."
Reading's manager, Brian McDermott, remains positive and sees last season's late charge to promotion as a good omen in the club's relegation battle this time. "I just hope our fans can stick with us because we might do it, you just never know," he said. "Last season we were written off pretty early. We've been written off before and we'll probably be written off again."
Goals: Everton Fellaini 42, Pienaar 59, Mirallas 66. Reading Robson-Kanu 84. Substitutions: Everton Heitinga 6 (Jagielka, 5), Anichebe (Osman, 75), Hitzlsperger (Pienaar, 82). Reading Robson-Kanu 7 (Kebe, 19), Blackman (Hunt, 75).
Bookings: Everton Coleman. Reading Le Fondre. Man of the match Fellaini. Match rating 7/10. Possession: Everton 60%. Reading 40%.
Attempts on target: Everton 11. Reading 5. Referee A Taylor (Greater Manchester).