Everton recovered from an early mauling when Fulham's foreign legion produced skills that thrilled and ruled, and produced a barnstorming display to totally overpower the Londoners.
The final moments were taken up by a mass of pushing and shoving players -just like the scenes when these sides met last term at Craven Cottage - and brought about by frustration from the Londoners as much as anything else. It was handbag stuff and Everton knew they had produced a telling victory.
Everton's goals came in the final seconds of the first half through Kevin Campbell and Thomas Gravesen, and it could have been worse when two Tomasz Radzinski efforts hit the woodwork. But this was more than an battling Everton comeback, it was the underlining of the work ethic, the sheer running power and effort - plus no little skill oftheir own - that boss David Moyes has begun to instil in this team. Fulham started with great style and flow, but disintegrated when confronted by Everton's drive, passion, tackling and sheer refusal to give way. When these two met last term at Craven Cottage, there was an FA inquiry into amass brawl. Such was Fulham's bitterness at the end that referee Steve Dunn had to sort out another almost identical incident which ended with Kevin Campbell and Andy Melville booked and Fulham trooping off well beaten, totally overpowered. Everton had started with telling changes from their previous debacle.
Out went defender Alan Stubbs following the defensive errors that caused Everton to lose 3-2 at Aston Villa last Sunday, to be replaced by Nigerian Joseph Yobo, finally making his debut after a string of injuries since his post-World Cup move.
Also in was Irishman Lee Carsley, making his first senior start of the seasonto beef up the Everton midfield against what is an increasingly speedy and mobile Fulham side. Also on the bench for the first time time this season was striker Duncan Ferguson, having not been fit to play in a midweek reserve match with an ankleproblem. Fulham, who had Steve Finnan back after injury, started as if they were goingto blow Everton away.
They cut through their defence almost at will in a hugelyimpressive opening phase and somehow failed to score with their best break when Sylvain Legwinski, Steed Malbranque and Barry Hayles all failed with shots inthe same move.
But Everton took a deep breath, regrouped and set about stemming the flow withsheer industry and effort, the hallmarks of Moyes' side these days. When Fulham's passing was spot on, it was a joy to watch, but the west Londoners did overdo the clever stuff enough to allow Li Tie and Gravesen to gettheir tackles in.
It was the beginning of a change in the pattern of a game that could easily have been beyond Everton by now. At the back, Yobo was winning every header and tackle he went for andconsistently finding a blue shirt with his clearances, qualities that were instantly winning over the home fans.
Fulham then lost defender Alain Goma with a groin injury, to be replaced byAndy Melville, but by now Everton were more than a match all over the park.
Everton's energy was making up for their lack of technique. Carsley wascrowded out as he went for a neat Campbell return ball, and then Campbell'sflick found Radzinski in space, but he slipped in the act of shooting andMelville was able to hack the ball away.
But the signs were there for Everton togain increasing encouragement. And almost on half-time with Fulham thinking they had done enough to go in at the break all square, the roof fell in.
First on 44 minutes, after referee Dunn had his book out to caution Pierre Wome for flattening Carsley, the resulting free-kick proved an aerial disasterfor Fulham.
From Mark Pembridge's swirling free-kick, Campbell got a back header onto theball and sent it just inside the far post, Edwin Van Der Sar losing out in theair, as did all his defenders.
Less than a minute later Everton scored again, Radzinski giving Gravesen theball and watching as the Dane raced through to unleash a fine 25-yarder that flashed past Van der Sar.
Fulham ended up in the changing room shellshocked, Hayles booked seconds before the whistle for decking Yobo and the Londoners wondering what had hitthem.
Everton maintained their pressure and Gravesen's free-kick curled inches widebefore Radzinski's follow-up from a Van Der Sar save from Gravesen's piledriver,failed to find the target.
Japanese star Junichi Inamoto lasted another minute before manager Jean Tigana hauled him off to put on Luis Boa Morte, the Fulham man being booed loudly by the Everton fans for his part in the rumpus at Craven Cottage last season whenDavid Weir was sent off.
Hayes was also heavily implicated in that row last season, and the home fans were far from impressed when Weir was left in a crumpled heap after a clash with Hayles. A minute after that incident, Tigana took Hayes off, replacing him withFacundo Sava.
Everton still kept powering forward and Pembridge's ball back to Dave Unsworthproduced a 30-yarder that Van der Sar managed to tip over the bar, the Dutchman soon making a miracle save from Campbell's diving header as Everton turned thescrew.
Radzinski's pace and drive gave Fulham's back line a day of torture, and hehit the post while being fouled by Knight, and then saw another effort hit the woodwork after a Gravesen cross.
Fulham were by now a shambles, upset by being tackled, constantly full of errors and spending their energies moaning at referee Dunn. Van der Sar summed it up by falling over on his line trying to catch aRadzinski header, and only just recovering his composure to deny Li Tie his first goal in English football.
There was no doubt Everton deserved this, it could have been more, and Fulham escaped what could easily have been a real drubbing