An extraordinary match of two red cards, 11 yellows, three penalties but not a lot in the way of quality football ended with probably a just result as Newcastle saw a first victory of the new season snatched away from them by an Everton equaliser two minutes from the end.
Put at a numerical disadvantage by the dismissal of Laurent Robert five minutes from the end of the first half, Sir Bobby Robson's side went ahead when Alan Shearer scored the first of the penalties 12 minutes into the second, with Gary Naysmith shown the red card for the foul on Kieron Dyer that gave it away.
In the confusion that followed a penalty appeal of their own, Everton drew level through Tomasz Radzinski 10 minutes later. They then fell behind again with eight minutes remaining when Joseph Yobo's foul on Olivier Bernard allowed Shearer to score his 150th Newcastle goal and apparently usher in the relief of three points to ease his side's troubled start to the season.
But the last act in the drama fell to Duncan Ferguson, the 32-year-old Goodison icon whose days in a blue shirt look to be numbered. The big Scot, whom Ipswich tried to take on loan last week, was released from the bench in something of a gamble by manager David Moyes given that he had lost a defender with the dismissal of Naysmith. But Moyes' boldness was rewarded with the equalising penalty - Ferguson's first senior goal since April 2002.
The pace of the game was frenetic, and the stadium so excited that Sir Bobby described it as a cauldron in his summing-up afterwards. Yet it was hard to remember a decent, flowing move during the entire game. The cause of unbroken play was not helped by the officiousness of the referee, Rob Styles.
Wayne Rooney, restored by Moyes to the starting line-up after his impressive performances for England, left the field in the 29th minute, limping off with an injury to his left ankle after an earlier tangle with Olivier Bernard.
England coach Sven Goran Eriksson will be relieved that Rooney's knock - which looked somewhat self-inflicted after a 50-50 challenge with the Newcastle left-back - is no more serious than a sprain. "He did it when his foot went under him but I don't think it will be a problem," Moyes said.
It was a second substitution forced on Everton before half- time. Moyes had already had to replace his goalkeeper, Richard Wright, labouring with a knee injury, with newly-signed Nigel Martyn.
Robert was sent off for a second yellow, jumping in on Tobias Linderoth after earlier being booked for a foul on Tony Hibbert. "It may have been a foul [on Linderoth] but it was not malicious," Sir Bobby observed with a shrug. If he was disappointed then, however, his hackles were really raised when substitute Jermaine Jenas was pulled up for the final penalty.
"J J felt that Radzinski took advantage of the situation," Robson said. "It wasn't a penalty." Moyes refused to be drawn into any injudicious remarks. "I made a pact with myself not to get into making controversial comments," he said.
Moyes admitted Everton's performance had "lacked craft" but his replacement of the defensive midfielder Steve Watson with a third attacker in Ferguson was a minor triumph. Ferguson's impact as a force in the air was immediate and led to an equalising goal within four minutes of his arrival.
Given, who had already saved a header by Rooney's replacement, Francis Jeffers - starting his season-long loan from Arsenal - made an even better stop to deny Ferguson with almost the big forward's first touch. But within moments he was retrieving the ball from his net. Newcastle's defenders hesitated when Everton appealed for a penalty against Bernard for a foul on Jeffers, and as Styles shook his head Radzinski swept the loose ball in off a post.
Radzinski 67, Ferguson pen 88
Newcastle United 2
Shearer pen 59, pen 82
Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 40,228Reuse content