Tottenham Hotspur's derby victory over Arsenal and the accompanying sense of euphoria seems a long time ago, although it was only at the beginning of last month. When André Villas-Boas's team beat their neighbours to stride seven points clear of them it felt as though they had a comfortable buffer for Champions League qualification.
No longer. There was the momentary surge of elation that accompanies a decisive late goal when Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised. But this was a game that Tottenham needed to win and only a fourth point from an available 12 had them casting backward glances.
Arsenal have moved to within striking distance and with Chelsea beating Sunderland to seize third place, Spurs no longer have control of their destiny. Their notably inferior goal difference stands to cost them.
Everton continued, in the words of the manager David Moyes, to "hang in there" but the narrow failure to hold on to the second-half advantage provided by Kevin Mirallas's excellent finish or to steal a late winner through the outstanding Victor Anichebe appear to have derailed their top-four ambition.
Tottenham must still play Manchester City at home in two weeks' time, which is their next Premier League fixture, and travel to Chelsea on a date to be confirmed after the postponement of next Sunday's match. The derby is taking on the hallmarks of a do-or-die duel. "I think it all depends on those two results [against City and Chelsea]," Villas-Boas said. "It definitely looks like it's going to go down to the wire."
This game did likewise. It had been laced with tension and after an entertaining second-half it came to the boil when Sigurdsson scored his fourth goal in nine matches, reinforcing the impression that he is finding his feet at the club.
There was much to admire about Everton's performance, including the authority of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin in central defence, and Anichebe's muscular leadership of the line – only a block from Hugo Lloris denied the striker in the last minute.
Tottenham were without the injured Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe – Villas-Boas said the trio remain on course to return against City – but Everton played with assurance, despite missing the suspended Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini. "We were psychologically affected," Moyes said. "We missed our players."
Tottenham scored after 33 seconds, when Emmanuel Adebayor stretched to prod home Jan Vertonghen's whipped cross from the left, but Everton were unruffled. They pressed and they harried, they gave no quarter in the challenge and their equaliser followed a deep corner from Leighton Baines.
It was a soft concession from Tottenham's perspective. Lloris has enjoyed an excellent debut season but he was boxed in by Anichebe on Baines's delivery before he attempted to come for the ball. He failed to get there and Jagielka muscled his way above Vertonghen to head down and in.
There was a jumpiness about Tottenham that was epitomised by defensive wobbles and Kyle Walker's reaction to Lewis Holtby's overhit crossfield pass to him. The right-back leapt and punched the ball like an angry beach volleyballer.
The first half flatlined after the goals, with athleticism to the fore rather than quality. But Moyes made a change early in the second half, sending on the striker Nikica Jelavic for Ross Barkley, and the positivity was rewarded immediately.
There was also a hesitancy about Tottenham after Anichebe worked the ball towards Mirallas, with Vertonghen unable to react decisively and Scott Parker falling into the Everton attacker's slipstream. Mirallas ran at Steven Caulker, jinked one way, then the other and drove a low right-foot shot into the far corner.
Mousa Dembélé's shot deflected off John Heitinga for Tim Howard to paw it up and against the crossbar but Tottenham were largely restricted to pot-shots from distance. Everton flickered on the counter and the home crowd chuntered; they booed Villas-Boas's decision to substitute Dembélé for Tom Huddlestone.
The game twisted late on. Clint Dempsey dummied Walker's low cross for Adebayor to hit a post, allowing Sigurdsson to knock in the rebound. But Anichebe almost nicked it for Everton after he got the better of the Spurs captain Michael Dawson, and Jelavic shot straight at Lloris in injury time.
Man of the match Victor Anichebe (Everton)