The question was how Everton would react after what Roberto Martínez described as "a glamorous week" on the road. The answer was a performance beneath the eye-catching standard of those against Manchester United and Arsenal, yet still richly rewarding for the Everton manager as his side overcame a fright against Fulham to rise into the Champions League places.
Fulham did what Fulham do at Goodison Park and lost. It is now 13 successive defeats here in the Premier League for the Cottagers, who last collected a point at this ground in September 1959. Their problems as a defensively weak outfit also continue but, as both René Meulensteen and Martínez stated, the margin of victory flattered the home side. "The scoreline looks as though we are down on our knees," said the new Fulham manager. "But that is not the case."
The visitors were as awkward as the Everton manager had forewarned in his attempt to guard against complacency after the four-point return from Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium. But it demonstrated the quality and belief flowing through the home ranks that, once Dimitar Berbatov equalised Leon Osman's opener, they stepped up a gear and sauntered to another three points. Seamus Coleman, Gareth Barry and the substitute Kevin Mirallas provided the gloss.
Two more Goodison games without defeat, and Everton will go the entire calendar year without losing at home in the league. The one negative was significant for Martínez, a hamstring injury to Gerard Deulofeu that threatens to sideline the emerging Spaniard for several months.
"I was fearful before the game because of mental fatigue after two very demanding away games," Martínez said. "Credit to Fulham in the second half, they pressed us high up and once they drew level we could have panicked and collapsed. I've seen many home teams do that but our mind-set changed and we were brave, courageous and adventurous in the final third. I always measure a side by how they react to adversity."
Fulham showed far more spirit, steel and adventure compared to the weak performance served up on their last visit to Merseyside under Martin Jol, the 4-0 defeat at Anfield last month when even their work-rate could be called into question. Again, however, they allowed the home team to take immediate control and it was not until Scott Parker moved into a more advanced role in the second half that they troubled Everton.
Everton took the lead with a well-worked move out of defence. Sylvain Distin released Bryan Oviedo down the left, he found the excellent Steven Pienaar inside who in turn squared for Osman on the edge of the Fulham area. The invaluable midfielder, making his 300th Premier League appearance for Everton, sold two defenders a dummy and arched a delightful finish inside Maarten Stekelenburg's right-hand post.
The only irritation for Martínez before the break was Everton's failure to take one of several presentable chances to double their lead. Fulham duly accepted the initiative at the start of the second half. Tim Howard demonstrated the hallmark of a quality goalkeeper when, having been unemployed for 48 minutes, he saved expertly from Parker. He was forced into another fine stop within 60 seconds, this time from Steve Sidwell's drivehe unmarked Alexander Kacaniklic skied the rebound.
The significance of the miss reduced when Barry tripped Kacaniklic to concede a soft penalty. Berbatov ambled forward and sent Howard the wrong way from 12 yards, capping a damaging few minutes for Everton that included the departure of Deulofeu on a stretcher. "We don't know the extent of the injury," Martínez said, before adding ominously: "Gerard will have to get himself ready for the final third of the season."
Martínez's men immediately woke from their slumbers and retook the lead when Pienaar and Lukaku prised open the Fulham defence down the left. The South African's low centre was only diverted across goal by Stekelenburg and Coleman converted gleefully at the back post. Barry then headed in from close range after a Mirallas corner had caused havoc in the area before the Belgium international's 20-yard shot flew through the goalkeeper's grasp for a flattering fourth.