Substitutes Steven Naismith, Kevin Mirallas and Aiden McGeady starred as Everton boosted their top-four hopes with a 3-1 triumph over Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Naismith and Mirallas were both on target in the second half, while the former's shot led to home goalkeeper David Stockdale inadvertently putting through his own net. The result was harsh on Fulham, who played well in the first half and looked to have sealed a point when Ashkan Dejagah cancelled out Stockdale's own goal. But Mirallas produced a composed finish 11 minutes from time and Naismith added a third to ensure Everton moved within four points of fourth-placed Arsenal with a match in hand. Their next match is at home to Arsenal on 6 April. Felix Magath's men are five points from safety with just six games remaining and will reflect on a game of missed opportunities.
Fulham were the better side in the first half, with Kieran Richardson, Lewis Holtby and Moussa Dembele all testing Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard. That seemed to matter little when Naismith's powerful effort flicked off William Kvist, struck the unwitting Stockdale and landed in the net just six minutes after the interval. But Fulham's response was spirited with Dejagah's fourth league goal of the season levelling matters. John Heitinga saw a late header saved by Howard and Pajtim Kasami went close as Fulham looked to win it, but Mirallas and Naismith both found the net for Everton late on.
Fulham threatened in the 13th minute as Brede Hangeland flicked on Holtby's corner, but Kasami was unable to steer his back-post header on target. Magath showed faith in 17-year-old striker Dembele by handing him a start and the Frenchman underlined his promise with a perfectly measured through-ball for Richardson, whose effort was saved by the legs of Howard.
Stockdale produced a carbon-copy stop to thwart Gerard Deulofeu at the end of a swift Everton counter-attack, while Holtby and Dembele tested Howard with headers as the tempo continued to increase prior to half-time.
Martinez's side moved ahead with 51 minutes on the clock. Leighton Baines' corner eventually found its way to Naismith, on for the injured Ross Barkley at the break, and his shot was going wide after being deflected by Kvist, only for the retreating Stockdale to kick the ball into his own net.
Stockdale produced a stunning save to deny Romelu Lukaku just past the hour as Everton looked to take the match beyond Fulham, but the hosts were not a spent force and Dejagah netted an excellent equaliser, cutting in from the left before rifling past Howard at his near post.
With Fulham in the ascendancy, Howard denied Heitinga and Kasami in quick succession before Mirallas raced away to make it 2-1. There was still time for Naismith to turn in a square pass from Baines and the Scot also hit a post from distance as Everton ultimately prevailed with a degree of comfort.
Fulham manager Felix Magath: "It was a very important game and unfortunately we lost this important game and the result is very disappointing. But if you have seen the game, if you saw how we played, it gives you another view.
"It was our best game until now and we created a lot of chances but unfortunately it was a defeat. I know that we can still make it, because today Everton was one of the best teams at the moment. Everton [will go] on to maybe take fourth place in the league. We played better than a relegated team and so if we have done it today we can do it next week again."
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: "You work hard over eight or nine months to see where you're going to be in the final eight games of the season. Now it's fair to say with the amount of points we have that we've got a realistic chance to fight for that aim.
"I'm not saying we're going to get there or not but in the same manner we admire Arsenal, we know that they've been getting consistently in the Champions League and that develops a real understanding of what to do in these sort of games.
"So for us the challenge against Arsenal on Sunday is phenomenal. It's a welcome one but again it reflects what a good season we've had so far."
"Fulham started the game better than us. They were very energetic, very strong in the first half, and they stopped us completely in what we wanted to do on the ball. At that moment we had to work very hard to defend, to be strong off the ball, and I think we did that really well.
"The second half it was a little bit different. The fresh legs of Steven Naismith, Kevin Mirallas and Aiden McGeady gave us a spark and probably we were the team finishing stronger. But even then it was a really open game, both teams trying to win and creating many chances. I felt defensively we were full of character and a team that it is prepared to fight and give everything to try to get a positive result. So from a manager's point of view I am as happy as can be in a performance."
|19 Apr 2014||v Spurs (A)|
|12 Apr 2014||v Norwich (H)|
|26 Apr 2014||v Hull (H)|
|03 May 2014||v Stoke (A)|
|05 Apr 2014||v Aston Villa (A)|
|11 May 2014||v Crystal Palace (H)|