Everton 1 - 0 Southampton
Richarlison grabbed the crucial goal for the second match running with a brilliant finish in the ninth minute
Everton pulled onto the shoulders of the top six again with a much-needed first home win since December as they successfully defended Richarlison's early goal to edge Southampton 1-0.
The Brazilian scored his fifth goal in as many games in all competitions in the ninth minute and though the Toffees would come close to adding to their lead, primarily off set-piece opportunities, they were left to cling on to three valuable points as Saints pushed for an equaliser late on.
Carlo Ancelotti was able to recall Dominic Calvert- Lewin and Allan to the starting XI after both players were declared fully fit following hamstring injuries but minor knocks sustained in training meant that none of James Rodriguez, Seamus Coleman, Tom Davies or Robin Olsen were available.
That required one more change from the manager who deployed Gylfi Sigurdsson at the top of a midfield diamond with André Gomes and Abdoulaye Doucouré either side and Ben Godfrey partnering Michael Keane at centre-half in the absence of Yerry Mina.
And Sigurdsson justified his inclusion with the all-important assist. Richarlison stole in behind the opposition defence for the second successive game to collect what was a similar pass from the Icelandic international to that supplied by James at Anfield nine days ago before rounding Fraser Forster and lashing the ball in from a tight angle.
Richarlison forced a good reaction save from the goalkeeper five minutes later but was adjudged to have been offside anyway and in the 25th minute, Evertonian celebrations at their second goal were cut off by Video Assistant Referee, Jon Moss, who correctly adjudged Mason Holgate to have been offside before he nodded a free-kick back across goal for Keane to head in off the underside of the crossbar.
Southampton's best chance of the first half also came via a set-piece when Calvert-Lewin had to dive to head James Ward-Prowse's free-kick behind and, from the resulting corner, Moussa Djenepo cut along the byline, Che Adams helped it on into the six-yard box but Jordan Pickford got a glove on the ball after it was turned goal-wards by Mohammed Salisu and then smothered the danger.
Sigurdsson fired a direct free-kick off the top of the defensive wall shortly after half-time and Forster denied Bed Godfrey his first Everton goal in the 58th minute he batted the defender's shot behind after Ward-Prowse had headed away from his own goal line. But it was Salisu who just missed restoring parity shortly after the hour mark when his back-header off a corner flew a yard wide of the upright.
Nathan Redmond curled an effort past the same post in the 72nd minute but as the game moved into the final 10, Southampton's increasing pressure almost paid dividends. Stuart Armstrong surged through the middle and played a one-two with Nathan Tella before laying it off to Djenepo whose first-time shot flashed inches past the far post.
Then, in the 90th minute, as the ball pinged around the box and Mason Holgate could only hack it into the path of Jannik Vestergaard, the Saints defender looked odds-on to nick a draw but Pickford spread himself well to block the shot and Everton survived.
The win moves the Blues back level on points with Liverpool and two points off fourth place with a game in hand, with a trip to relegation-threatened West Brom next up on Thursday.