Everton may still be without a victory in a Merseyside derby for a decade – but they will happily take this point against Liverpool after an afternoon of chaos and controversy at Goodison Park.
Those of a blue persuasion will believe they were long overdue some good fortune in this fixture, and some of it arrived in large measure in this frenetic 2-2 draw on the 10th anniversary of their last win against the old enemy.
There was much to be positive and optimistic about for Everton here – more of which later – but there is no doubt luck was on their side this time and the helping hand of the video assistant referee and its operator David Coote was at their shoulder.
Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford somehow escaped a red card for a wild, out of control challenge on Virgil van Dijk in the ninth minute that left Liverpool’s defender limping away painfully to the treatment room.
And then, deep into five minutes of stoppage time, Liverpool thought they had achieved payback for Pickford’s reckless transgression when he fumbled Jordan Henderson’s shot into the net behind him, sending the men in red into a wild celebration in the corner of Goodison Park where their fans would usually be housed.
In keeping with the occasion, there was an interminable wait before presumably a hair on the fabric of Sadio Mane’s shirt meant he was ruled offside and referee Michael Oliver delivered his good news/bad news verdict.
Honours were even although there was plenty of acrimony and debate afterwards – with Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti clearly happier than their counterparts, who were also furious after a late challenge by Richarlison injured Thiago Alcantara and brought the Brazilian striker a red card.
Everton will be satisfied, and with good reason, at the character they showed, the threat they now possess up front, the menace and class provided by James Rodriguez and the fact that in derbies not so long ago a blow like Mohamed Salah’s second goal for Liverpool would have finished them mentally and physically.
Yes, Everton got lucky but this was another day when the improvements made and acquisitions brought in by Ancelotti were on show. They got a point against the Premier League champions, who were clearly wounded by that 7-2 thrashing at Aston Villa, without being anywhere near the standards they have reached previously this season.
This is because Liverpool are the best side they have played this term but Everton also showed grit when in the past they may have collapsed. They now also have greater quality in midfield and up front and have added reserves of self-belief after their superb start to the season.
Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure have added energy and a combative edge to a midfield that was one of the worst in recent Everton memory by the end of last season, the Brazilian not quite looking fully fit but still getting around the pitch in that problem-solving way of his.
Rodriguez added the brush strokes with some touches of class while young Ben Godfrey, signed for £25m from Norwich City, showed plenty of promise when thrown in as an emergency right-back after Seamus Coleman suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury.
And in Dominic Calvert-Lewin Everton have a player who has made the most remarkable strides in the past 12 months – from a young striker with a faultless attitude but not a ruthless edge in front of goal to someone who now looks to have the complete attacking game and cannot stop scoring.
Calvert-Lewin started to show more end product under the influence and caretaker management of Duncan Ferguson but since the arrival of Ancelotti he has simply taken his game on to a previously unimagined level.
Plenty of us who thought Calvert-Lewin would struggle to score enough goals to make it into the top echelon are currently gorging on humble pie, as he scored his 10th goal for Everton in all competitions this season to secure this point.
Calvert-Lewin’s hold-up play has also improved but what is most noticeable is his desire to get into dangerous positions and how he now has a leap that draws fair comparison with his mentor Ferguson.
It was in evidence here in the 81st minute when he soared at the far post to direct Lucas Digne’s delivery back across Adrian.
Liverpool still carried the greater threat and will believe they should have been given that late goal – but Everton will be happy with a point.
Ancelotti would have preferred Everton to win but they undoubtedly have something about them this season and while it is stretching the imagination to still see them topping the table as the Premier League season reaches the sharp end, they are unrecognisable from the shambolic final few games of last term.
Liverpool will feel luck denied them victory but Everton will gratefully accept their slice and believe this represented another step in their learning process and development under their decorated Italian manager.