Jack Rodwell showed exactly why Manchester United have been tracking him with a superb third goal in a 3-1 win for Everton at Goodison Park.
Everton were looking for their first home win over United in five years but they knew they would be up against it against the in-form champions and so it proved when Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring.
However, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov scored a fine equaliser within minutes and Dan Gosling fired them deservedly ahead on 76.
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They may have expected the kitchen sink to be thrown at them in those final 14 minutes but United never really got going and their misery was completed in the final minute when Rodwell broke from midfield to score a wonderful individual goal.
That sees the Toffees rise to eighth, with outside chances even of challenging the top four, while United could now find themselves four points off Chelsea if Carlo Ancelotti’s side beat Wolves later on Saturday.
Everton had early efforts on goal through Leon Osman and Louis Saha in the Goodison sunshine but it was the visitors that made the breakthrough in the 16th minute when Berbatov fired in off the bar from six yards after Sylvain Distin failed to cut out a driven cross from Antonio Valencia.
It looked set to be the start of a familiar story for the Toffees against United but there was to be an instant twist as Bilyaletdinov drew them level with a fine strike within three minutes.
It started with what looked like a harmless long punt from the back but Jonny Evans only half-headed away and it fell kindly to Bilyaletdinov, who took a touch before rifling a superb effort into Edwin van der Sar’s left-hand corner.
The Russian could have scored a second soon after but it looked as though the champions would move back ahead from a familiar source a minute later. Wayne Rooney looked certain to score after going clean through and rounding Tim Howard but his second touch took him wide and Phil Neville was able to step in to shepherd the ball out of play and ensure the sides went into the interval level.
Bilyaletdinov, Darren Fletcher and Berbatov had efforts at either end in an entertaining opening to the second period but United were lacking potency and it was no surprise when Sir Alex Ferguson introduced Gabriel Obertan and Paul Scholes for Park Ji-Sung and Berbatov.
Still Everton continued to hold the upper hand, though, and they grabbed a deserved lead in the 76th minute when Gosling held off Patrice Evra to slide in from eight yards following a clever cut-back by Steven Pienaar.
Michael Owen was brought on five minutes later but the expected Alamo never arrived from United and a miserable afternoon was completed in stoppage time when Rodwell powered forward, rounded Evans and fired superbly into the far corner.
Rodwell was booked for his celebrations but that will matter little to the youngster, his manager David Moyes of the joyous Blues that left the ground celebrating a rare victory over the men from down the East Lancs road.