Everton suffered a shocking home defeat to Sunderland on Boxing Day, but there'd be no repeat against Southampton. The Saints put up a furious fight, but they were powerless to prevent their hosts from securing three points at Goodison Park after a late winner from Romelu Lukaku.
Everton started brightly and Ross Barkley drew an early save from Kelvin Davis when he met Seamus Coleman's cross with a snapshot. Having seen his attempt to set up a teammate fail (and perhaps remembering his awesome strike at the Liberty Stadium last weekend), the right back took matters into his own hands in the ninth minute.
James Ward-Prowse presented only token resistance on the flank, and Coleman took advantage of his weak challenge and bore down on goal. Before Luke Shaw could get back and intervene, the 25-year-old unleashed a thunderous effort that was across Kelvin Davis and into the top corner before the goalkeeper could react. It was a marvellous strike, and the Toffees had a vital lead.
Southampton are a tough side, and they reacted to going behind by piling pressure on their hosts. But despite enjoying plenty of possession and employing a ferocious tackling game that gave the Everton defenders fits, the Saints' couldn't trouble Joel Robles in the first half, their only real site of goal coming after an audacious piece of individual skill from Adam Lallana, who tricked his way past Sylvain Distin and Leon Osman but failed to get his shot on target.
At the other end of the pitch, Steven Naismith had a penalty shot turned down after being held in the box by Dejan Lovren, before Jose Fonte prevented what looked like a certain Everton goal. He cut out Lukaku's cross to the completely unmarked Bryan Oviedo.
Oviedo was then involved in the first two incidents of the second half. The left back, kept in the side despite the return of Leighton Baines, went in far too hard on Calum Chambers and was perhaps fortunate to only see yellow for the misdemeanor. Then his searching cross was turned just wide by Barkley under heavy pressure from Lovren after a move which should have resulted in the hosts' second goal.
Southampton were still in the match and Everton's failure to kill off the match meant that the tension was slowly ratcheting up. A deflected Jay Rodriguez shot flew just wide of Joel Robles' goal as the Saints demonstrated their intent, but Everton failed to heed the warning. They'd pay the price in the 70th minute.
Gaston Ramirez had come on as a substitute four minutes prior, and it didn't look as though there was anything on when he ran on the ball in the middle of the park. But that didn't stop him from taking a chance, and he got lucky with a thunderous effort from 35 yards. Robles should have done far better -- the goalkeeper let the ball fly straight through his hands on its way into the back of the net.
But Everton regrouped quickly, regaining the lead within minutes of being pegged back. Steven Pienaar played a searching ball upfield to pick out James McCarthy's excellent run, and instead of going for goal himself, the midfielder made the wise decision to square to Lukaku. The Belgian, scoreless in his last five games, made the most of his chance, thumping a first-time shot past Kelvin Davis and into the top corner.
Lukaku could have had another goal or three before the end of the match, but fortunately for the Toffees the missed opportunities didn't matter.
Everton starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Joel Robles; Leighton Baines, Antolin Alcaraz, Sylvain Distin, Seamus Coleman; James McCarthy, Leon Osman ; Bryan Oviedo (Steven Pienaar 60'), Ross Barkley, Steven Naismith; Romelu Lukaku.
Goals: Coleman 9', Lukaku 74'.
Southampton starting lineup (4-3-3): Kelvin Davis; Luke Shaw, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers (Nathaniel Clyne 88'); Jack Cork (Gaston Ramirez 66'), Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse (Sam Gallagher 83'); Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana.
Goals: Ramirez 70'.