Everton moved ahead of Leicester courtesy of Theo Walcotts’ winner early in the second half, but they really should have been more convincing winners, the loss of Morgan Schneiderlin shortly after the goal disrupting their midfield.
Arguably one of the strangest choices for Monday Night Football saw this clash of two mid-table sides albeit with the potential for national coverage of Evertonians in protest… if the past few days of Internet and social media traffic was to be believed.
Under fire manager Sam Allardyce, believed to be insisting on clear-the-air talks with major shareholder Farhad Moshiri over his prolonged or otherwise tenure needed nothing less than a victory and a much improved performance from the players. Facing a former foe and one of his former clubs, Allardyce selected his starting line-up: Pickford, Baines, Keane, Jagielka (c), Coleman, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Rooney, Bolasie, Walcott and Tosun.
The visiting Magpies who, on the back of four straight wins, have climbed away from the relegation fight under former RS boss Rafa Benitez, himself refusing to sign a new contract until he has assurances over a summer transfer budget, we’re looking to leapfrog the Blues into ninth place. The rotund Spaniard opted to name his side: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles (c), Lejeune, Dummett, Diame, Shelvey, Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy and Slimani.
Refereeing this festival of late season footie on a cool and blustery evening was Bobby Madley.
An entertaining, competitive opening 45 minutes belied the end of season status many beforehand had labelled this game.
Walcott on an early break went down in the box in the act of funding Tosun whose shot went wide.
Lascelles showed why the Toon fans rate him so highly with a commanding headed clearance on a Baines free kick that was aimed for Tosun and on a Newcastle break, Jordan Pickford was quickly out to prevent Slimani getting on the end of a through ball from Kenedy.
Schneiderlin was anchoring the midfield with both Gueye and Rooney pushing that little bit further forward, and Walcott was unlucky not to get on the end of a 40-yard pass from the French midfielder.
Just past the quarter hour mark a decent move saw Walcott and Tosun combine and when Bolasis played a one-two with Baines, the visitors were grateful for Shelvey blocking the shot.
The game was being played a good pace and lack of commitment from either side and a fine midfield challenge by Schneiderlin saw him find Walcott and a return pass back to him from Tosun again saw the visitors scrambling to clear their lines.
A Rooney corner from the left saw a Keane header cleared and when the ball was lofted back in, Keane again got up well to head down for Jagielka arriving at the back post, but his effort went high and wide.
Kenedy half charged down a Pickford clearance and for a moment Goodison froze, but Perez mistimed his pass to Slimani and Pickford was able to gather the ball comfortably.
Leading up to the break, Everton enjoyed a good period of pressure with a telling cross from the right by Bolasie and a charge into the area by Baines playing a one-two that Newcastle were again grateful to clear, and right on the whistle, Walcott fired just wide on a fine ball from Rooney.
Half Time: 0-0
An early mix-up between Jagielka and Coleman saw Perez get free, but he inexplicably fired well wideout the target.
Everton hit back and opened the scoring just five minutes into the second session as a hurried pass from Jagielka found Bolasie and he set off down the right with Coleman overlapping and screaming for the pass. Bolasie preferred to hold on and fired a deep cross to the back post where Walcott gained the ball, dinked past the fullback and fired high into the net giving Dubravka no chance.
Seconds later, Schneiderlin got hurt and was quickly replaced by Tom Davies, the Frenchman getting a good round of applause for his efforts.
The goal certainly sparked an already lively game with both sides working hard.
On 58 minutes, Everyon withdrew Bolasie for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and on the next Newcastle foray forward, Shelvey and Slimani combined to find Perez with Baines covering superbly to clear the danger.
Slimani was subsequently replaced by Dwight Gayle on 62 minutes.
A clash of heads between Gana Gueye and Keane saw the latter need treatment before a cross from Kenedy found Perez in space but his header was easily saved by Pickford.
Michael Keane picked up the games first yellow card for a found on Gayle just outside the Everton area, but Ritchie curled the set piece high and wide.
Ritche was subbed off for Murphy shortly afterwards and four minutes later, Merino replaced Shelvey ahead of Oumar Niasse coming on for Cenk Tosun.
Everton survived a nervy moment when a Keane clearance pin-balled around in the area with Newcastle howling for a penalty before Gueye miscued his clearance and Yedlin fell over himself trying to get in a cross.
With five added minutes signalled and Gueye and Kenedy booked for a spat, Baines receiving treatment for a bang on the knee and a cut forehead, the visitors threw everything forward in an attempt to claim a late equaliser.