Mohamed Salah was encircled by a haze of red smoke at Goodison Park, as he celebrated his 19th goal in as many games this season.
It was the signal for some Everton supporters to seek out their exit route with Liverpool 2-0 up and unfortunate not to have a more swollen scoreline in their favour.
In the Gwladys Street end, the protest came in the form of a banner bearing the club’s Latin motto of nothing but the best is good enough, with a message for the board.
“We demand Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, it’s about time our club did too,” it read.
And then the true scale of disgruntlement was on show at the final whistle, where all corners of the directors’ box had fans chucking verbal grenades at Everton’s board, with chairman Bill Kenwright and director of football Marcel Brands particularly in the spotlight.
Farhad Moshiri, the majority shareholder whose fingerprints are all over an expensive and extensive shambles, was nowhere to be seen. Shock, horror!
The ballooning fury stretched well beyond suffering the heaviest home defeat in a Merseyside derby for 39 years. It climbed over the eight matches without a win and went above the fact only two points have been taken from the last 24 on offer.
That the away end could gloat by chanting Rafael Benitez’s name louder and louder was awfully annoying for their counterparts but still beside the point.
Everton’s faithful are apoplectic due to serious mismanagement: circa £500 million spent on a mishmash of players collected under a mishmash of men in the dugout since Moshiri became chief.
They have fallen foul of Financial Fair Play, which offered Benitez just £1.7m to remedy a mediocre squad, and the wisdom of appointing a beloved Liverpool manager on the wane sparked plenty of head scratching in itself.
There was the economic calamity of the James Rodriguez experiment that only hardened the question of what the purpose of Brands is.
Everton’s director of football was recruited to install a sustainable, modern structure at the club with a focus on shrewd recruitment and youth development.
The ideal has been for a model similar to the one Ralf Rangnick successfully implemented at RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg, so it is curious that Everton twice scuppered a deal for the man that will take interim charge at Manchester United.
Brands seemingly does not have enough authority to shape an identity for the Merseysiders, nor the power to select the manager and sway the recruitment policy.
Everton have, at least, stumbled on an innovation: a sporting indirector. The mess is massive and the anger from supporters is not going to disintegrate.
Benitez was not the right fit, but firing him is not going to make the more sizeable problems disappear. Without a clear, progressive plan there will only be more pain.
Moshiri’s decision-making is not suddenly going to improve with Brands flicking a switch and returning to the revered figure he was when departing Dutch football.
The squad cannot apply TikTok effects to immediately look like a £500m prospect. There is no way to filter or photoshop the truth that Everton require great surgery in order to have a semblance of long-term surety.
The availability of Dominic Calvert-Lewin would make them better, but nowhere near the level they need to strive to be at. The striker is a guarantee for goals, but he can’t make the mismanagement vanish.
Everton have to stop searching for excuses or scapegoats and start pursuing a concrete strategy: Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.
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