Bournemouth 2 - 1 Everton
A rare goal by Idrissa Gueye gave Everton the platform to end 2017 with a victory but it was Bournemouth who found a winner
Everton finished 2017 with Sam Allardyce's first defeat as manager as Ryan Fraser's deflected winner handed Bournemouth their first win in nine games.
The Blues had been punished by the diminutive midfielder in the first half when James McCarthy's giveaway led to him scoring the opener and while Idrissa Gueye scored a well-taken equaliser 12 minutes into the second half, the visitors couldn't hold on to a point.
Gueye had been expected to sit out again after straining his hamstring against Chelsea last week but he was selected in a defensive midfield trio that was rounded out by Morgan Schneiderlin and James McCarthy, making his first appearance since returning from hamstring problems of his own.
The overtly defensive posture had predictable ramifications for Everton's ability to attack; while there was, on the whole, a good deal more passing and confident possession of the ball, Dominic Calvert-Lewin remained an isolated and ineffective presence up front.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, it was Bournemouth who had the better chances in the first period. Callum Wilson rolled Michael Keane easily and saw his half-volley beaten away by Jordan Pickford while Jordan Ibe was also foiled by the Blues' keeper who pushed his fierce drive behind.
The home side did take the lead in the 33rd minute, however, when McCarthy's back-pass was collected by Wilson, he fed Josh King and when the ball was squared across the box, Fraser was there to steer the ball past Pickford.
Allardyce made a much-needed change at the break, introducing Wayne Rooney, returning from a virus, withdrawing McCarthy and, combined with Oumar Niasse's introduction for Calvert-Lewin soon afterwards, the change in formation would contribute to Everton regaining parity within 12 minutes.
Rooney had dragged a left-footed shot narrowly wide and when Simon Francis gave the ball away to Gylfi Sigurdsson from the resulting goal kick, the Icelandic international picked out Niasse in the Bournemouth area. His lay-off found the advancing Gueye and he swept it home to make it 1-1.
Everton failed to push on from there, however. Instead, it was the Cherries who responded, with Francis exchanging a one-two pass and sliding it square to Wilson but Pickford was there again to make an excellent save.
Benick Afobe came very close to putting Eddie Howe's men back in front when he turned neatly past his marker but a heavy touch took it through to the ‘keeper before Yannick Bolasie replaced Gueye with 20 minutes left.
The Congolese winger had one chance where he eschewed a decent shooting opportunity and chose to play it wide to Niasse and then ballooned over when the Senegalese striker's cross was headed out to him.
Then, three different episodes where Everton sloppily gave the ball away in their own half put them in danger of falling behind again. Pickford had to race off his line to avert danger on the first two occasions and then parry another effort from Ibe who then clipped the crossbar as Bournemouth continued to threaten.
After Sigurdsson had had a shot charged down at one end, the hosts made the breakthrough that they had been threatening after the protection afforded by Gueye had been lost in midfield at the other.
Fraser was played in on the edge of the Blues' box and with Keane backing off, he jinked his way into position before firing a shot off the defender's heel and over the stranded Pickford with just a couple of minutes left on the clock.
The loss ends Allardyce's seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions and keeps Everton's attacking deficiencies in sharp focus as the January transfer window approaches.
Everton end the year in ninth place but will rue having dropped five points from two winnable games against two teams struggling near the bottom of the table over the Christmas period.