Ninety forgettable minutes – one unforgettable instant. What a difference a wonder goal in front of the Kop makes.
Evertonians might have wished to erase the preceding Anfield derby from their minds, such was the infuriatingly limp Toffees display.
But then Phil Jagielka, with one almighty swipe of his right boot, wrote his name in the Royal Blue history books alongside Kevin Sheedy, Kevin Campbell and Graeme Sharp.
Some Liverpool fans behind Simon Mignolet’s goal were still applauding Dejan Lovren’s headed clearance as the clock ticked down on what seemed to be another home win, when Jagielka connected with the sweetest strike he will ever hit.
It was the sort of jaw-dropping moment which certainly changes derbies, and it might just change Everton’s season.
Prior to the 91st minute of the 223rd Merseyside derby the Blues were preparing for a third morale-sapping defeat in the space of six days.
Roberto Martinez’s men needed to produce a performance on enemy soil after their agonising 3-2 defeat by Crystal Palace and abject exit from the Capital One Cup in South Wales.
Instead they failed to muster any of the attacking verve which has been the one thing supporters have clung to, as their side’s alarming defensive melt-down intensified by the week.
And even their passing, the quality Martinez prides himself on most of all, was uncharacteristically sloppy and ineffective as the contest wore on.
The omens did not look good from the outset, with Seamus Coleman unable to recover from the head injury he suffered against Wolfsburg, the Blues were always destined to be unbalanced.
Whether it’s John Stones, Tony Hibbert or even promising youngster Tyias Browning who came on for his bright debut, Everton do not have a like for like replacement for their marauding right-back. Such are the levels Coleman has reached over the last 12 months, there are few players in Europe who can lay claim to being his equal in that position.
And without him they are just not the same. Suddenly moves begin to slow and falter when the ball is switched to the right flank, and consequently they resort to over-reliance on Leighton Baines down the opposite side which is too predictable for the opposition.
That wasn’t the only problem which would have been among the post-mortem talking points on Saturday night had it not been for Jagielka’s explosive lifeline.
Everton’s Phil Jagielka celebrates after the game
Romelu Lukaku spoke beforehand about how he was in the mood to help Everton tear-up the script of 15 long, win-less years across Stanley Park. Now it will be 16 and the Belgian striker did very little talking with his feet on the Anfield turf.
The question is whether that was down to his own fluctuating form or because he was played out of position on the right of the attack; a role in which he showed fleeting promise against Arsenal last season.
Yet barring an early bright spell when he cut inside and launched a couple of dynamic but off-target efforts at Mignolet, he was largely anonymous.
When Everton needed a physical presence, the big striker seemed disinterested. At one point when a ball was aimed towards him he inexplicably pulled out of an aerial challenge with Lovren which was in his favour. His body language was often disappointing as Reds left-back Alberto Moreno, who he towered over, frequently got the better of their tussle.
But was Lukaku being sacrificed for the greater good? By putting him head to head with Liverpool’s offensively minded left-back the striker at least curbed the Spaniard’s potentially damaging forward forays.
Either way, Lukaku will have to wait a little longer to make the sort of impact great Everton number nines have made on this fixture and now, his captain too.
Rank misfortune, so often Everton’s companion at Anfield, was back again too. Kevin Mirallas has become a key performer this season and was warming into the game, and the chance to really test Liverpool’s young full-backs, when he pulled up with what seems likely to be a serious hamstring injury.
Deprived of Mirallas’ threat Martinez asked Aiden McGeady to resurrect his early season form and create some cut and thrust to unlock the home defence. His plea fell on deaf ears.
Firepower? Everton had as much potency as a super-soaker. They mustered 11 shots all game, less than half what Liverpool produced, and only five were on target – most of them straight at Mignolet.
There are further mitigating circumstances.
Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard shakes hands with Everton’s Phil Jagielka after the game
The Blues also had the considerable handicap of missing Coleman, Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar. Granted Liverpool were also without the influential Daniel Sturridge, but the visitors could claim the greater losses.
Instead the main positives for Everton were qualities which seemed to be of a bygone era. They had enough defensive intensity to suppress Liverpool, and even suggested a return to their trademark resilience at the back.
Ironically Jagielka’s last-gasp screamer will divert attention from what was actually one of his best defensive displays in a long time.
This was the Phil Jagielka we knew and admired for so long, a reassuring presence full of no-nonsense blocks, quick recovery challenges and sharp decision making under fire.
The skipper won every single one of his headed duels, and it should be noted he had 98% pass accuracy too. Alongside him John Stones was typically calm and composed.
On his first Premier League start Muhamed Besic also impressed, offering the right mix of self-belief, tidy footwork and muscularity in the early midfield battle.
Besic certainly didn’t seem over-awed by the significance of the occasion and got stuck into Liverpool with a healthy dose of what Martinez often calls “footballing arrogance”. His signing may prove to be a shrewd capture.
Alongside him James McCarthy was his usual non-stop model of endeavour, and Gareth Barry too deserved a pat on the back.
Lucky not to concede a first half penalty with a handball, he then did superbly to last the full game on a yellow card after his early clattering of Adam Lallana left him on a tightrope.
Ref Martin Atkinson has had worse derby displays; who can forget his red card for Jack Rodwell, and on Saturday he was passable.
In denying Raheem Sterling a penalty after Barry’s handball he was only balancing up his early failure to award Lukaku a spot-kick after
Moreno slyly pulled him over in the area.
The Bradford official also got it wrong when he gave Liverpool the free-kick which produced Steven Gerrard’s drearily predictable goal. Nonetheless, Everton had not done enough themselves to feel too aggrieved at the score.
Everton’s Phil Jagielka scores against Liverpool
Everything revolves around that final decisive game-changer. Just like Phil Neville’s memorable challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008, it might become the incident which galvanises them.
Small moments change games. They change seasons. Everton must hope it can resurrect theirs.