Everton go fourth in the Premier League after snatching all three points in a 2-1 win over Wolves at the Molineux.
The Toffees made a lightning start with Lucas Digne looking electric down the left as Wolves were forced onto the backfoot in the opening stages.
And the visitors found themselves in front inside six minutes after James' wonderful ball out wide found Digne on the edge of the box, the full-backs first-time pass finding Alex Iwobi who then found the corner.
Everton looked set to double their lead with the early momentum but Wolves landed a suckerpunch equaliser just eight minutes later as Rayan Ait-Nouri fizzed a brilliant ball into the box met by Ruben Neves with a fierce volley from close range.
With parity restored, the two sides could not be separated in the first period, with Jordan Pickford and Rui Patricio each making saves to keep their side level.
There was little between the two in the second half. Everton struggled with a makeshift frontline of Gylfi Sigurdsson and James, and while Wolves looked the more likely to steal a win they also struggled without a recognised quality striker.
Yet despite their patchwork attack, Everton took the lead again almost out of nowhere after substitute Andre Gomes put a quality ball on to the head of Michael Keane who planted a magnificent header past Rui Patricio.
The visitors held on for all three points and are now just four points off top and within just one point of Merseyside rivals Liverpool.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Michael Keane (Everton). Keane put in an imperious performance at the back for Everton. With a place in the top four on the line, Keane kept his nerve and rose to the occasion, quite literally as he leapt highest to put his side in front.
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12: Michael Keane of Everton celebrates with Yerry Mina after scoring their team's second goal during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton at Molineux on January 12, 2021 in Wolverhampton, E
Image credit: Getty Images
Everton flying high. It’s mid-January, Everton are one point off Liverpool, four off top spot, in fourth place. What more could Toffees fans ask for?
With no recognised striker on the pitch, Everton still managed to find two goals under pressure against a very decent Wolves side, away from home. This feat alone is one unrecognisable from the more bottle-prone Toffees sides of the past two decades.
They showed fantastic mettle to get the job done, and thoroughly deserve their place in the Champions League spots.
Wolves: Rui Patricio 6, Semedo 6, Coady 6, Saiss 5, Ait Nouri 7, Neves 7, Moutinho 5, Dendoncker 6, Gibbs-White 6, Neto 5, Silva 4. Subs. Hoever 5, Cutrone 5, Vitinha n/a.
Everton: Pickford 7, Holgate 6, Mina 7, Keane 8, Godfrey 6, Digne 7, Doucoure 6, Davies 6, Iwobi 6, Sigurdsson 6, James 7. Subs. Richarlison 6, Coleman n/a, Gomes 7.
6’ - GOAL! WOLVES 0 EVERTON 1 (Iwobi) And they have their opening! Digne has been all over Wolves and his one touch pass brilliantly finds Iwobi on the edge of the box whose shot finds the corner via a small deflection. The Toffees lead inside six minutes!
14’ - GOAL! WOLVES 1 EVERTON 1 (Neves) Wolves are back in it! Ait-Nouri picks up the loose corner and fizzes a brilliant ball into the box which Neves meets with a fantastic volley. He's smashed past Pickford who had barely got back across is goal. That's come out of nowhere!
17’ - SAVE! Wolves smell blood but Pickford to the rescue! Fabio Silva gets a snapshot on goal from near the penalty spot but Pickford does really well to get down to his right.
76’ - CHANCE! James is in behind and he should probably go for goal himself but instead his squares for Sigurdsson/Iwobi and the two get in eachother's way. Big opportunity missed.
77’ - GOAL! WOLVES 1 EVERTON 2 (Keane) It's another goal out of nowhere and with 14 minutes left Everton are in front! Gomes curls in a brilliant cross and Keane leaps magnificently to plant a header past Patricio.