It was an unhappy return to Goodison Park for David Moyes as Romelu Lukaku wrapped up Sunderland's 2-0 defeat at Everton on Saturday and prevented them from lifting themselves off the bottom of the Premier League table.
Moyes, who spent 11 and a half years managing Everton, found himself back at Goodison for the first time since a 2-0 defeat in April 2014 resulted in his Manchester United dismissal, but his current charges rarely looked capable of recording an upset and their lack of luck was summed up by Jermain Defoe striking the crossbar just before Lukaku's late clincher.
Everton controlled what was a one-sided first half and, although Sunderland did improve as it progressed, the hosts deservedly led at the break thanks to Idrissa Gueye's fine strike.
The visitors looked a greater attacking threat after half-time, though their lack of creativity meant Everton remained relatively comfortable at the back – Joel Robles rarely finding himself involved.
The previously anonymous Defoe was finally presented with an opening 12 minutes from time, only to see his effort come back off the frame of the goal.
And Lukaku took full advantage of that let-off, finding the net on the break shortly after to secure an Everton win with his 17th league goal of the season and keep the pressure on in the race to finish in the European places.
60 - Romelu Lukaku is now ’s joint-highest goalscorer in the (level with Duncan Ferguson). Toffee. February 25, 2017
It took a purposeful Everton seven minutes to craft their first chance, as Ademola Lookman met Leighton Baines' pass just inside the area and saw his effort spilled by Jordan Pickford, but the goalkeeper – back after two months out – recovered and stopped it on the line.
Pickford was called into action again 13 minutes later and he was rather more assertive this time as he kept Gueye out from a tight angle after the midfielder robbed Billy Jones and darted into the left side of the box.
Sunderland finally found a foothold with Adnan Januzaj looking lively down the right, but they failed to test Robles and left themselves open to counter-attacks.
And Everton eventually broke their resolve on the break five minutes before half-time – Gueye latching on to Seamus Coleman's cut-back and applying an emphatic finish from 16 yards.
They almost added a second at the end of the half, but Tom Davies' 20-yard drive came back off the right-hand post.
Sunderland's improvement continued after the break as they looked to put Everton under more meaningful pressure.
They kept plugging away and at no stage of the second period did Sunderland find themselves clinging on at the back.
And they went agonisingly close to securing a potentially vital equaliser, Sunderland catching Everton short of numbers at the back only for Defoe's 16-yard effort to crash back off the underside of the crossbar.
That escape gave Everton the jolt they needed to finish things off.
Lukaku charged through after being played into the Sunderland half by Kevin Mirallas and the striker held off Bryan Oviedo before slotting past Pickford.
Substitute Enner Valencia was then denied when one-on-one with Pickford as Everton looked to further crush Sunderland's morale, but it mattered little for the hosts, who extended their unbeaten run to nine league games.
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