Everton once more made a mockery of talk that Champions League qualification might be an option for them in this unpredictable season, slumping to a dreadful home defeat to Newcastle United.
The Magpies came into the game without a win in 11 matches and with serious questions about Steve Bruce's future as manager but they left Goodison Park with three well-deserved points having done the double over the Toffees for the first time in two decades.
Callum Wilson scored both goals and might have had four as Everton flattered to deceive, generally struggled to impose themselves on their supposedly inferior opponents all game and hardly troubled Karl Darlow in the Newcastle goal.
Alex Iwobi returned to the starting XI wide on the right and Lucas Digne dropped back to left-back but neither player had effective afternoons, that despite the Frenchman being afforded plenty of space in the early stages.
Yerry Mina had an early headed chance from a James Rodriguez free-kick and Richarlison tested Darlow with a decent effort after 22 minutes but in the face of some overt physicality from Bruce's side, much of it aimed at James and unevenly addressed by referee Stuart Atwell, the home side generally lacked fluidity and imagination going forward.
Wilson's 12th-minute effort that deflected wide off Mina and Jonjo Shelvey's shot that also took a nick off a defender on its way past the post were warning signs for Everton but the most glaring was a free header afforded to Wilson on the half hour, one that Jordan Pickford had to acrobatically palm over the crossbar.
The Blues' best moment of the first half was a delightful back-heel by Dominic Calvert-Lewin into the path of Rodriguez but his prodded left-foot shot was beaten away by the goalkeeper while Richarlison blazed a chance well over in stoppage time.
Everton began the second period with a higher tempo and more purpose but it yielded precious little in the way of opportunities and soon dissipated. And it was Newcastle who should have taken the lead eight minutes after the restart when they counter-attacked and Ryan Fraser played Wilson in but the striker rolled his shot past the post.
Darlow did well to turn a Calvert-Lewin shot around the post at one end but with 17 minutes to go, the deadlock as broken. Once again, Wilson was allowed to rise unchecked to meet a corner and this time he guided his header across goal and into the far corner.
Carlo Ancelotti had already brought André Gomes on in place of Iwobi in an attempt to change the pattern of the game and Everton tried briefly to put pressure on the visitors but they failed to test Darlow further while Wilson hit the post for Newcastle when he might have put the game to bed three minutes from the end of the regulation 90.
The former Bournemouth man did get his second in injury time, however, as Everton poured forward in search of an equaliser and the Magpies caught them on the break as Jamal Lewis centred to Wilson and he had time to set himself and fire past Pickford to set the seal on a miserable afternoon for Ancelotti's side.
Everton are back at Goodison Park to face Newcastle United in today's lunchtime game as they look to get back to winning ways by atoning for what was one of the season's most disappointing results in the reverse fixture in early November.
Despite Pickford's gaffe on Wednesday, he retains his place, with Coleman, Iwobi Sigurdsson and Doucouré back in the starting line-up. Holgate, Godfrey, Gomes and Davies are back on the bench where Ancelotti names only 8 subs but, of course, two of them are goalkeepers.
The visitors kicked off, wearing all yellow, playing toward the empty Gwladys Street, where they won an early corner off Sigurdsson. From it, Rodriguez looked to release Iwobi down the left but the ex-Arsenal man was not interested in making a counter and reversed the play instead. When the ball was played up, Calvert-Lewin was called for running into Darlow.
Richarlison was caught cynically by Lascelles, for what should have been a straight red but was only a yellow 4 minutes into the game. From the free-kick, a tremendous ball in from James and Mina challenged Darlow for it, just heading wide.
James then combined with Digne but Calvert-Lewin was not deep enough to challenge for the excellent cross in. Digne then crossed very well under pressure, forcing Darlow to concede the corner, delivered a little better by Sigurdsson but still cleared away.
Shelvey was allowed a really cynical neck grab on James, but no card. A few other Newcastle players have perfected the hand-to-face to push off the pressing player, nice training from Steve Bruce. His side won a free-kick wide right that Shelvey delivered and Mina cleared.
Iwobi won a similar free-kick on the opposite side, fired in by James, that Mina could not direct properly. When Everton tried to play out of the back, Newcastle were pressing high but James was providing some great out-balls. The game was open and even, both sides getting up the field and Everton having to block a few long-range shots.
Shelvey was finally booked after treading on James's foot. Iwobi got past his man nicely but then crossed poorly. Richarlison stepped up and fired a meaty shot that forced a save from Darlow.
Newcastle mounted a very strong attack and Shelvey came very close to scoring, his shot deflected just wide. Mina was next to go down under a forearm smash to the face, needing some treatment. But the tempo of the game was very much in their favour, with Everton not implementing their counter-attack successfully.
A bullet header from Wilson off a Newcastle corner almost brought their opener, Pickford pulling off a fine fingertip save to turn it onto and over the bar. But the signs were becoming increasingly ominous for Everton, who were being thwarted effectively, by fair means or foul (or Iwobi's incompetence) when they tried to venture forward.
Wilson spun Sigurdsson who caught him Gomes style, giving Shelvey a chance from the set-piece but he lashed it well over. They did get forward with a nice back-heel from Calvert-Lewin playing in James for the shot. Doucouré set up Richarlison who sliced it wide when it should have ended up top corner.
Newcastle attacked again with confidence but Pickford handled the high cross well. James was again cynically taken out but referee Atwell ignored it until he halted the play for an Everton foul. When Sigurdsson and Lascelles kicked each other, he favoured the Newcastle player with the free-kick. The physicality of the game was starting to tell.
Sigurdsson had a chance to play in a set-piece but it was poor, straight to Darlow. Richarlison then went for glory when more patience was required, with Everton's attack not really asking enough questions in a first half that was far too even.
Everton tried to build with more care at the start of the second half, with some good passing that was worth a goal but for James straying offside and Calvert-Lewin being unable to convert when played on.
Everton suddenly found a lot more space down the left but lost the ball in a turnover and the visitors then created a fabulous chance for Wilson who screwed it wide.
Calvert-Lewin's shot was parried by Darlow for a corner that was superbly curled in by James but Darlow collected it. At the other end, another niggly foul called, and more bodies strewn in the aftermath.
A couple of Newcastle corners threatened but Pickford was alert to the high ball, although the parry did not relieve the pressure. Everton's early dominance since the break had faded and Newcastle were threatening again. Gomes came on for Iwobi and Everton suddenly set up a decent attack but the corner produced nothing.
Saint-Maximin came on for Fraser, and Newcastle pressed a lot harder, winning a corner that Calvert-Lewin cleared. Everton were still not getting forward in anything like the manner needed, with Newcastle stifling them and threatening to steal a goal. And a corner from Shelvey, and an unstoppable header from Calum Wilson, did just that.
Calvert-Lewin won a corner from the restart, successfully defended, leading to a Saint-Maximin inspired counter that came to nothing. Gomes again passed the ball out of play.
Coleman looked to overlap down the right but crossed in behind Doucouré. He gets another chance but his low cross is booted out for a throw-in. Almiron was too strong for James, easily taking the ball off him. James was getting tired and frustrated but he remained virtually the only hope for an equalizer.
From a corner, Digne summed things up with an awful shot that was miles off target. Newcastle were invited to reprise the goal on another corner but Everton defended it this time.
A shocking giveaway by Coleman led to Shelvey creating a golden chance for Wilson to double Everton's misery, as he rounded Pickford but could only strike the post with his shot.
Richarlison was caught a little clumsily by Hendrick for the 7th yellow card of the game as 5 minutes of added time and Shelvey powered another free-kick just over the angle.
Everton won a corner but somehow Newcastle broke with Everton all over the place and Calum Wilson had no trouble lashing it past Pickford to underline a dreadful day for Everton at Goodison Park.
Kick-off: 12:30pm, Saturday 30 January 2021 on BT Sport 1
Referee: Stuart Atwell
VAR: Kevin Friend
Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Mina, Keane [Y:61'], Digne, Sigurdsson [Y:35'], Doucoure, Iwobi (63' Gomes), Richarlison, Rodriguez [Y:79'], Calvert-Lewin.
Subs: Olsen, Virginia, Kenny, Holgate, Godfrey, Davies, Gordon.
Newcastle United: Darlow [Y:84'], Hayden, Lascelles [Y:4'] (54' Clark), Schar, Lewis, Manquillo, Shelvey [Y:21'], Hendrick [Y:88'], Almiron, Fraser (67' Saint-Maximin), Wilson.
Subs: Dubravka, Longstaff, Carroll, Joelinton, Gayle, Krafth, Anderson.
Everton are back at Goodison Park this weekend to face Newcastle United as they look to get back to winning ways by atoning for what was one of the season's most disappointing results in the reverse fixture in early November.
Struggling to deal with injuries and suspensions to two key players in the form of Richarlison and Lucas Digne, the Blues slumped to a 2-1 defeat to the Magpies and Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping for a much improved performance given that his squad is in much better shape this time around.
James Rodriguez was also absent from that loss at at St James's Park but he is expected to play this time having started against Sheffield Wednesday and Leicester in the past week and Alex Iwobi could also be in the starting XI after being named in among the substitutes against the Foxes in midweek.
The Nigerian came off the bench with 10 minutes to go and added a much-needed creative spark but Everton had to settle for a draw that keeps them outside the top four, albeit with games in hand over their rivals for the Champions League places.
Newcastle travel to Merseyside having slumped to 16th place, six places above the relegation zone, following a six-match losing streak in all competitions. In that time, they've scored just two goals and it has ratcheted up the pressure on Steve Bruce who has just added former Everton assistant manager Graeme Jones to his backroom staff.
Whether the urgency of the need to arrest his team's dreadful run prompts Bruce to push Allan Saint-Maximin back into the starting XI rather than continue to ease him back following a heavy bout of COVID-19 remains to be seen but defensively, at least, he is expected to be without Federico Fernandez and Paul Dummett because of injury. DeAndre Yedlin reportedly has a visa issue that could preclude him from playing and might see him end up moving to Galatasaray before the transfer deadline as a result.
Meanwhile, Ancelotti, who may still have nightmares about his team's injury-time collapse in this fixture last season, will be boosted by the eligibility of Abdoulaye Doucouré who served a one-game ban against Leicester. The Frenchman's dynamism and versatility was sorely missed in the 1-1 draw and he will likely replace Tom Davies in midfield.
The rest of the starting line-up could be the same, with the possible exception of Seamus Coleman coming at right back, Lucas Digne dropping back to left-back and Robin Olsen replacing Jordan Pickford if Ancelotti wants to continue his rotation policy in goal.
With West Ham and Liverpool, two teams currently sitting above the Blues in the table, facing off on Sunday, victory for Everton would see them gain ground on at least one of them and keep them in touch with the top of the table that is eight points away at the start of the weekend.
Kick-off: 12:30pm, Saturday 30 January 2021 on BT Sport 1
Referee: Stuart Atwell
VAR: Kevin Friend
Last Time: Everton 2 - 2 Newcastle United
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, Doucouré, Gomes, Iwobi, Rodriguez, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin