Aston Villa 3 - 2 Everton
Everton's six-match unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt as a poor overall performance proved no match for Aston Villa's urgency in the face of danger from relegation.
Christian Benteke scored twice in the first half to send the Villains into the break 2-0 up and Tom Cleverely restored their two-goal advantage in the 64th minute after Romelu Lukaku had given the Blues a path back into the game from the penalty spot.
Phil Jagielka's controversial late headed goal put a more flattering gloss on the result than Roberto Martinez's side probably deserved but it came too late for them to complete a comeback.
Martinez had elected to change a winning side by dropping Ross Barkley and Leon Osman to the bench and handing starts to Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas but Everton fell behind as early as the 10th minute when Benteke rose high above Leighton Baines to meet Fabian Delph's deflected cross and powered a header past Tim Howard.
The American 'keeper beat away Charles N'Zogbia's low free kick five minutes later and Ron Vlaar missed badly with a free header as Villa continued to cause the Blues problems at the back.
Tim Sherwood's men would exploit the visitors' defensive fallability again just before the break when John Stones lost Benteke as the ball was swung in leaving the Belgian free to convert at the back post to doublethe advantage.
Having failed to register a single shot on goal in the first 45 minutes, Everton could only have improved after half time and they quickly showed signs of stepping up their performance in the early stages of the second half. Lukaku had a low shot tipped behind by Shay Given at the end of a surging run and it was another drive forward by the Belgian striker that caused the chaos in the home area.
The chance initially looked to have been lost as Lukaku tried to prod it towards Kevin Mirallas but when Naismith nipped in to retrieve the ball he was tripped by Vlaar and referee Mark Clattenburg awarded the penalty. Lukaku rolled his spot kick into the corner and the Blues were temporarily back in the contest.
They were pegged back to 3-1, though, when Villa carved them wide open just five minutes later. Leandro Bacuna picked out Cleverley's run behind Gareth Barry and he took one touch before sweeping a shot past Howard.
Barry hammered a half-volley straight at Given and substitute Leon Osman also planted a shot down the goalkeeper's throat as Everton tried to find another way back into the game but it was until injury time that they pulled another goal back.
Given appeared to be impeded by Seamus Coleman as the ball came back off the crossbar following an Everton corner but the referee allowed play to go on and Jagielka nodded the rebound in via the underside of the bar.
Victory for West Ham over Burnley means that the Blues drop back into the bottom half of the table while Swansea's win over Stoke effectively ends Everton's quest to finish in eighth place.
Full details: ToffeeWeb Match Reports