Southampton 2 - 1 Everton
Richarlison toiled unsuccessfully as the lone striker before being hooked after the Blues conceded their second goal
Everton went down to another demoralising defeat, this time at Southampton where the Blues failed to turn their dominance of possession into anything of substance.
Marco Silva's side largely controlled the ball in the first half but could count themselves fortunate to go into into half time level after Jordan Pickford had twice been called into to action to make vital saves and André Gomes's interception rolled off the post.
They looked to be getting the second half off to a more purposeful start but allowed James Ward-Prowse to bear down on their area and hammer the Saints into the lead five minutes after the restart before Lucas Digne inadvertently put through his own net trying to prevent Nathan Redmond from doubling Everton's deficit.
Gylfi Sigurdsson scored in stoppage time with a lovely controlled finish but it was too little too late for the visitors who have failed to build on the wins over Lincoln and Bournemouth.
Silva named an unchanged line-up from the win over the Cherries last Sunday which meant another start for Ademola Lookman and Richarlison continuing as the lone striker up front but the Brazilian struggled to compete against three big centre halves all game and was substituted in frustration midway through the second half.
Everton struggled to get any fluidity in their game while Southampton, under recent managerial appointment Ralph Hasentüttl, looked adept at passing their way past Silva's high press and managed a handful of incisive attacks in the first period that might have resulted in goals.
Matt Targett's fast cross in the seventh minute found Ward-Prowse in the box but his shot was deflected behind by Michael Keane before Pickford made an excellent one-handed stop to deny Danny Ings's header off a corner with a quarter of an hour gone.
A poor giveaway by Gomes led to a ball over the top for Ings but Pickford denied the striker with a good parry save and Redmond then squandered a gilt-edged chance as Everton's defence was dissected with ease once more but the forward grazed the post with a low shot.
In between, Everton's best move of the half had ended with a neat interchange between Bernard and Lookman, the latter seeing his effort charged down by Bednarek and behind for a corner.
That was a rare moment of incisiveness from the Blues who caused more problems for themselves late in the half when they were again dispossessed trying to play out from the back. Ings was played in for a shot from close range but Gomes took it off his toe, the ball came back off the woodwork and Seamus Coleman hacked clear.
The Blues came out for the second half with a strong start and Sigurdsson forced the first genuine save from Alex McCarthy when Digne's cross was met by Sigurdsson's head but the keeper batted it behind at his near post.
Any chance to build some momentum was quickly ended, however, when another loose pass by Gomes in central midfield was intercepted and fed forward by Southampton to Ward-Prowse. The midfielder took the invitation to keep running and then smashed an unstoppable shot past Pickford from around 25 yards.
Gomes was hooked in the 56th minute following a torrid display and Dominic Calvert-Lewin was thrown on to change the formation but it was 2-0 less than 10 minutes later. Another misplaced pass in midfield saw Southampton quickly put the ball through the centre once more where Redmond was favourite to score before Digne unwittingly prodded the ball beyond Pickford and inside the post of his own goal.
Cenk Tosun was introduced immediately in place of Richarlison but there was little change to the pattern of the game and it was Southampton who came very close to scoring next when Stephens headed wide from a corner with 10 minutes to go.
Everton's late push yielded what proved to be only a consolation goal when Sigurdsson stroked a loose ball off a set-piece through a crowd of players but despite treatment for Kurt Zouma and Shane Long extended stoppage time to seven minutes, there wasn't enough left for Silva's men to claim what would have been an undeserved point.
The defeat sets Everton back again in their attempts to find some form following a disappointing sequence of results since early December and dumps them back into the bottom half of the table.
More worryingly, it throws up a number of questions concerning the system employed by Silva, the diving form of some key players and the general mental strength of a squad that has now lost six of their last 10 matches in the Premier League.