After all the criticism, Andy Carroll could revel in achievement as he completed Liverpool's recovery to take their place against Chelsea or Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup final. The £35m signing headed home the winner from a free-kick by the substitute Craig Bellamy three minutes from the end.

Semi-finals often seem to be swayed by error more than virtuosity. In this case, Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool side were 1-0 down and in difficulties before Sylvain Distin's outlandishly short attempt at a back-pass allowed Luis Suárez to run through and equalise with a painstaking finish in the 62nd minute. It was exactly the sort of lapse that is not associated with David Moyes's team, but nervousness had been distributed evenly.

Everton's opener demonstrated that Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher both hesitated over making a clearance in the 24th minute and, having lost his balance, the latter kicked the ball against Tim Cahill. The rebound dropped into the path of Nikica Jelavic, who shot home efficiently. The forward, whose £6m move from Rangers took place in the January transfer window, had already been looking a shrewd purchase, but a goal on an occasion such as this emphasised his value.

Recruiting a scorer can be a challenge to clubs of much greater means than Everton's. Prior to the interval, Liverpool had great territorial command. With their opponents content to drop deep, there was congestion for Liverpool to overcome. At that stage, however, there was no flow to the build-up and the strikers Suárez and Carroll had extremely limited scope.

Moyes has a well-drilled Everton side and the reaction from Liverpool in the opening 45 minutes was diligent rather than imaginative. Only a point separates the club in the Premier League, but it is Everton who have that small advantage and, at Wembley, they also had the edge in the first half.

Liverpool appeared to be struggling with the expectations that come when a squad appears more glamorous than its challengers. They even denied themselves an equaliser in the 47th minute. A deep delivery by Stewart Downing from the right reached Carroll at the far post. The unmarked forward nodded wide and then pulled his shirt over his head as if to conceal the shame.

That move showed new urgency but Everton, far from the full-time whistle, tried not to huddle around their own penalty area. The leveller from Suárez meant that Moyes's side had no further reason to be cautious but Liverpool had seized the initiative. A Carroll drive from the edge of the area went marginally wide in the 78th minute. This game had difficulty in coming to a conclusion, but ultimately produced a stirring close.