Say what you like about Charlton Athletic, and Chelsea's bid for their best player last week gave a pretty broad hint about their opinion of the gulf in financial class, you cannot but admire their continuing battle to become the best of the Premiership's supporting cast.
Some clubs might have been deflated by the prospect of losing Scott Parker to the bottomless pockets of Roman Abramovich, yet Charlton responded by not only resting their "unsettled" England midfield player, but cementing their position in the top four. Other, "bigger" clubs may covet the final Champions' League place but Alan Curbishley's team are in possession and it will take a determined team to prise it away from them.
Yesterday epitomised their grit and commitment. They took the lead though former Everton player Graham Stuart and then worked ferociously to protect their advantage. Everton threw everything at them, including four strikers by the end, but Charlton, as they so often do, confounded expectations. They are now unbeaten in seven Premiership matches.
"It's been a difficult week," Curbishley, the Charlton manager, said of the disruption caused by Chelsea's £8m offer for Parker, "but the players realised it was a big game for us and they dug in well. It was a fantastic result for us.
"Scotty's been unsettled and I can understand that," he added. "I have known him since he was 12 and when Chelsea's offer became public I suppose he saw an offer from a big club and things like that don't happen too often. He wasn't in the right frame of mind to play."
Parker absence dominated this match as much for emphasising the gap between the top three and the rest. Teams have to employ the weapons at their disposal to try to overcome these cash disadvantages and it soon became apparent this match was one of contrasting styles; Charlton's passing game embodied by Matt Holland and Paolo Di Canio against Everton's pragmatic use of Duncan Ferguson's size and strength.
Initially it was hard to argue against the home tactics because "route one" looked more productive. As early as the second minute Ferguson's aerial menace created space for Thomas Gravesen to crash a 30-yard volley into Dean Kiely's chest. After 17 minutes the Scot played a one-two with Francis Jeffers and was furious when his shot, which had been deflected, was followed by a goal kick.
It was ironic, therefore, that Charlton got their 41st-minute goal from a cross and the muscular presence of a big striker. Di Canio twisted and teased on the right, Carlton Cole rose amid a cluster of Everton defenders and when his header ricocheted off a blue shirt, Stuart was faced with a distance of five yards to beat Nigel Martyn.
Everton introduced Tomasz Radzinski for the disappointing Jeffers just before the hour and within a minute the Canadian was just wide after Ferguson had won his umpteenth battle in the air. It then required Mark Fish's right knee to prevent the home side equalising soon afterwards. Kevin Kilbane crossed, Ferguson launched his huge frame up again and his header had defeated Kiely before the South African centre-back performed a less than elegant version of the can-can to clear off the line.
Kiely then made a spectacular save himself when he thwarted Gravesen's header, but although Everton threw on Kevin Campbell to further supplement their attack, their efforts crashed against the barrier created by Chris Perry and Fish, and Charlton survived with something to spare. They can look upwards and hope; Everton, four points above the relegation places, are looking behind and worrying.
Everton 0 Charlton Athletic 1
Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 36,322