Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s diving header five minutes from time extended Everton’s proud 71-year stay in the top flight with a 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace on a night for the ages at Goodison Park.
Needing a victory to make themselves safe and avoid an awkward last-day trip to top-four-chasing Arsenal, the situation looked bleak when they went 2-0 down inside 36 minutes.
But manager Frank Lampard’s tactical changes, plus the sheer emotion and force of a raucous crowd, dramatically turned things around in the second half as first Michael Keane and then Richarlison, with his sixth in nine games, teed up a rousing finale.
And with the stage set, Calvert-Lewin – fresh from scoring his first goal since August in Saturday’s defeat to Brentford – launched himself at a free-kick and watched as the Gwladys Street End behind the goal exploded, followed by the rest of the ground.
The pressure had been so unbearable for so long, hundreds of fans and smoke grenades spilled onto the pitch in celebration and, while it was short-lived and good-natured, referee Anthony Taylor and his assistants retreated behind a wall of police on the touchline.
There was another incursion by thousands at the final whistle and inevitably there will be consequences for Everton, but nothing as damaging as what was staring them in the face with 150 minutes remaining of their season.
The calamitous nature of their defending which allowed Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jordan Ayew to put the visitors into a deserved two-goal lead was forgotten on a night of celebration and relief at the final whistle.