Everton, through their feisty Australian Tim Cahill, had the final word yesterday as this initially tepid game exploded into one of extraordinary incident and controversy.
Just as Stoke City's sledgehammer tactics appeared to have rescued something from two down soon after half-time, Cahill put a smile back on the face of David Moyes, the manager by then banished to a seat in the stand. Stoke were every bit as sloppy in defending set-pieces as they were expert in creating havoc from them at the other end, the fit-again Cahill being left free to powerfully head in Mikel Arteta's left-wing corner for the winner.
It was a goal that defused much of the anger Moyes felt at events surrounding his dismissal from the technical area shortly before. Alan Wiley had rightly awarded a penalty at 2-2 when Leon Cort, possibly two yards inside the area, used his arm to control a bouncing ball under pressure from Yakubu. The Birmingham official was somehow persuaded by Stoke players to consult his assistant and instead give Everton a free-kick just outside – a bemusing about-turn which prompted a volley from Moyes at the fourth official.
"It was a big moment because it was 2-2," the manager said. "We thought it was a penalty and I complained to the fourth official. I didn't swear but I let him know I thought it was the wrong decision. I don't know if there's any appeal for managers but it was an important win in the end, hard-fought and topsy-turvy."
The second-half dramas were in marked contrast to what had gone previously. Yakubu's measured left-foot shot steered Everton in front when Arteta and Cahill teed him up in one of the first half's two moments of genuine quality, Fuller bringing a good save out of Tim Howard from the other after an exchange with Liam Lawrence.
Victor Anichebe glanced in an unmarked header from Arteta's 50th minute free-kick to double the lead but the sixth and seventh of the 11 outrageously long, pacy throws Rory Delap hurled into Everton's area brought Stoke level and lifted the Britannia Stadium to fever pitch.
First, Howard got no elevation on his punch and, via Cahill's further attempt to clear, Seyi Olofinjana scored with a stunning volley. Then Cort appeared to give Phil Jagielka just enough of a nudge to ensure the defender glanced a header into his own net rather than clear safely.
Everton were clearly rattled and survived in between Stoke's goals when Fuller went round Howard to score, only to be pulled back for a trip on Jagielka that was hardly clear cut.
The bizarre goings-on made Moyes' blooding of £15m Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini appear an irrelevant side-show and a translator will be engaged this week to point out to the highest-profile of Goodison's three deadline-day arrivals that not all games in England are like this.
Having added a second away win out of two to their consecutive home defeats, Everton are now up in mid-table. For Stoke, one off the bottom following a third defeat in four matches, and with Liverpool and Chelsea lying in wait next, the outlook is less bright. They could be about to find the Premier League as difficult as it is finding them.
"We faded away and gave Everton the impetus after a good start," said their manager Tony Pulis. "We had a bit of a pop at half-time and when Everton scored again, it looks like game over. But the players kept battling and going."
Goals: Yakubu (41) 0-1; Anichebe (50) 0-2; Olofinjana (54) 1-2; Jagielka (own goal, 62) 2-2; Cahill (76) 2-3.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Griffin, Sonko, Cort, Higginbotham; Lawrence (Cresswell, 85), Olofinjana, Abdoulaye Faye (Tonge, 80), Delap; Kitson (Sidibe, 80), Fuller. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Shawcross, Wilkinson, Whelan.
Everton (4-5-1): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Anichebe (Vaughan, 90), Fellaini, Cahill (Rodwell, 80), Castillo, Arteta; Yakubu. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Baines, Valente, Kissock, Baxter.
Booked: Stoke Fuller, Faye. Everton: Arteta.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Man of the match: Arteta.
Attendance: 27,415.Reuse content