A triumphant comeback and a ludicrous red card drew attention from the matter that most pleased David Moyes, the winning manager, at Eastlands on Saturday, namely that Everton have registered their best start so far to a Premiership season.
The opening match against Arsenal promised nothing of the sort, but 10 points from four matches since have generated a welcome, if cautious, optimism in Moyes' mindset. Against a City side bedevilled by the same inconsistency that they could not shake off last term, victory by a solitary goal might not be much to jump up and down about - unless compared with the 5-1 drubbing Everton suffered in the same stadium on the final day of last season. "That result summed up last season for us," Moyes said. "Before the game I reminded the players of how they felt after losing so badly here."
Trying to work out what happened to the "real" Everton gave Moyes a headache for most of last season after failing by the narrowest margin to qualify for Europe the year before. Having asked himself repeatedly how the same players could then spend the next campaign anchored in the bottom half of the table, he admits he is still none the wiser.
Is there a sense of starting afresh, perhaps, after the end of the Wayne Rooney saga? "There was a feeling of starting again on the day we came back for pre-season training," he said, neatly deflecting the question. "There was a determination to show that last season did not show the genuine Everton."
The genuine David James, inevitably, was sought as the Manchester City goalkeeper made his first appearance since the howler against Austria that cost him his England place. In the event, James emerged with a good deal of credit, producing three fine saves to keep City in the contest in the first half and fronting up to face the media afterwards.
Insisting he had not exposed himself to a critical press, but grateful for support and an "awesome" response from City fans, James received endorsements from the managers and vowed to regain the England jersey from Paul Robinson. Typically honest, he said that Everton's goal "would need to be looked at". As two defenders tried unsuccessfully to deny Tim Cahill the heading opportunity that brought the decisive goal, James was conspicuously rooted to his goal-line.
The advice to referees on goal celebrations certainly needs to be looked at. Steve Bennett, the official who found himself obliged to issue a second yellow - and with it a red - after Cahill momentarily pulled his shirt front over his head, said: "All clubs have received copies of a poster that shows what constitutes an offence and I am in no doubt that the player breached those regulations."
Goal: Cahill (60) 0-1.
Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher (Jihai, 73); Wright-Phillips, Barton, Reyna, Sinclair (Sibierski, 73); Anelka, Fowler (Macken, 63). Substitutes not used: Waterreus (gk), Bosvelt.
Everton (4-5-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Pistone; Osman (Gravesen, 58), Cahill, Carsley, Watson, Kilbane (Naysmith, 73); Bent (Ferguson, 73). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), McFadden.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Sent off: Everton: Cahill (61).
Booked: Manchester City: Barton. Everton: Carsley, Cahill, Pistone.
Man of the match: Cahill.
Attendance: 47,006.Reuse content