Liverpool (AFP) – Everton secured their Premier League status thanks to a thrilling second half comeback from 2-0 down to beat Crystal Palace 3-2 in front of a cacophonous Goodison Park crowd.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s diving header five minutes from time sparked chaotic scenes as home supporters flooded onto the field in relief at extending the Toffees’ 68-year stay in the English top flight.
Only victory was good enough for Frank Lampard’s men to not be fretting going into the final day of the campaign on Sunday.
But a series of calamitous defensive errors looked set to cost them as goals from Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jordan Ayew put Palace in command before the break.
Michael Keane sparked the fightback nine minutes into the second half before Richarlison levelled 15 minutes from time.
Calvert-Lewin’s injury problems have been a major source of Everton’s struggles this season but the England international came up with a huge goal when his club needed it most as he met Demarai Gray’s free-kick flush with a diving header.
The battle to avoid joining Norwich and Watford in the Championship next season is now between Burnley and Leeds heading into the final day.
The Everton bus arrived to a wave of noise and flurry of blue flare smoke, but the intense atmosphere quickly turned to frustration.
Richarlison came close to giving the home side the lead when his free-kick clipped the top of the crossbar.
Palace soon took control as Patrick Vieira’s men coolly stroked the ball around to leave Everton chasing shadows.
Conceding from set-pieces has been a consistent failing all season for Everton under two different managers.
They were undone again from a free-kick for the opener as Eberechi Eze’s delivery was headed in at the back post by the unmarked Mateta.
Everton were on their way to being safe on Sunday when they led Brentford 1-0 only for a controversial game-changing red card for Jarrad Branthwaite to turn the match in the Bees’ favour.
The shoe should have been on the other foot when Ayew lunged into a dangerous challenge on Anthony Gordon midway through the first half.
However, referee Anthony Taylor only saw fit to produce a yellow card and was not told to review his decision by VAR.
Moments later Everton’s anger turned to anguish as a catalogue of errors led to Palace’s second.
Jordon Pickford needlessly flapped at a cross and when Wilfried Zaha fired a bouncing ball goalwards, Ayew was gifted two chances to bundle the ball over the line despite the presence of two defenders in the six-yard box.
The home crowd and team were given hope when centre-backs Mason Holgate and Keane combined for the former Burnley man to fire brilliantly into the far corner.
Yet, for all Everton’s effort, it was Palace who continued to play the better football and pick the hosts off on the counter-attack.
Pickford made amends for his earlier mistake by producing a vital save to prevent Mateta restoring Palace’s two-goal advantage.
That proved a vital turning point as Richarlison, who has so often rode to his side’s rescue in recent weeks, did so again by firing a loose ball into the far corner.
Calvert-Lewin’s winner sparked even more madness among the crowd as the game was held up due to the pitch invasion.
Seven minutes of nervy stoppage time followed, but Everton held out and the supporters spilled back onto the pitch in even greater numbers at full-time.
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