Everton 0 Aston Villa 1
It was a fortnight ago that Aston Villa returned from Merseyside with their unbeaten record in tatters, on the wrong end of a lesson.
Contrast the anguish of Anfield with the gleeful scenes at Goodison Park after Chris Sutton's subtly-headed first-half winner had earned Martin O'Neill's men their first away league win under their new manager.
Contrast also with Villa's last visit to Goodison eight months ago. With the most injury-torn side David O'Leary ever selected, Villa shipped three goals before half-time, lost 4-1 and those 'fickle' fans kicked off the campaign which led to the manager's departure.
These days, the fans do like their manager. In fact, they love him and it's no surprise, given all that O'Neill has brought since he arrived - hunger, humour, humility and now fourth place in the Premiership in the middle of November, a prospect which never looked a possibility under O'Leary.
Gone is the falseness of O'Leary's regime, replaced by a different sort of Irishman, an intelligent, occasionally volatile but generally charming one, who knows how to get the best out of players.
O'Neill also possesses that vital ingredient any successful team needs . . . the luck of the Irish.
So far this season, Villa's luck has been with penalties; seven in their favour, mostly of dubious merit. On Saturday, it was a spot of midfield bother that earned their lucky break midway through the first half.
Lee Carsley went steaming into a tackle looking to prove his masculinity in front of Gavin McCann. Instead, he missed the ball and took out his team-mate, Tim Cahill.
Just how awful a challenge it was does not become apparent until one sees the different camera angles. Had Carsley gone over the top like that to a Villa player, he would have been sent off. But, as it was, the home side might have been better off without him, so debilitating an effect did it have on Everton.
After a five-minute delay, Cahill was stretchered off. That left the home side effectively two key players down. James Beattie is a poor substitute these days for the player O'Leary once came so close to signing. Carsley, meanwhile, usually Everton's main driving force, had an afternoon he will want to forget from that moment on.
Apart from the first-half miss contrived by an out-of-form Andrew Johnson, three of Everton's best chances fell to Carsley and he finished them with all the effectiveness of a frightened rabbit.
Villa did not have that many chances, only their long-distance shooting proving enough to bring the best out of Tim Howard, through McCann and Stilyan Petrov (twice). But, from the moment the Cahill calamity occurred, they looked there for the taking and Villa had the man to take advantage in Sutton. The goal came just three minutes before the break. Gabriel Agbonlahor, who scored on his debut here in March, demonstrated just how far he has come, showing not only pace and strength but his sheer desire to get to the ball first ahead of Joleon Lescott.
The Wolverhampton Wanderers old boy used to foul players for fun in his Molineux days and get away with it. Judging by one second-half incident when he held off Agbonlahor by shoving an arm in his throat, causing an angry response from the Villa flier, he still does.
But, when it mattered most, Agbonlahor got the better of him and slipped a neat pass inside to Isaiah Osbourne, who floated over a teasing cross and Sutton stole in to glance home the sort of near-post header that was a hallmark in his heyday.
It was a tribute to O'Neill's team selection that two of the four changes he had made to the team beaten at Stamford Bridge had clicked.
Three changes were enforced by the injuries to captain Gareth Barry, right-back Aaron Hughes and centre-half Martin Laursen. But the preference for 20-year-old Osbourne over Steven Davis and Patrik Berger, Gary Cahill's first start of the season and the recall of Sutton were not.
Davis looked ineffectual after giving away the first goal at Stamford Bridge and O'Neill opted to move Petrov across to the left and bring Osbourne into the engine room.
It was not exactly the "bare bones", given that Villa had three internationals on the bench. And, with half the team altered from last season's visit, it was hardly surprising that the visitors made a better fist of it.
It might have been a different story if Johnson had not finished more like Clinton Morrison's makeweight than the #8million England striker he is. But, while he should have done a lot better after getting in behind Gary Cahill only to volley wide, so should Carsley when he conjured up a miss every bit as bad, slicing wide with only Thomas Sorensen to beat.
Carsley then tried to pass the ball in before heading at Sorensen and, when Beattie fired a low shot which the Villa goalkeeper fumbled round the post, Everton knew it was not their day.
In terms of victories on this ground, it wasn't 'Boys of '81'/Tony Morley's goal of the season' stuff but that was in the days when English football's elite were on a level playing field. And to be fourth in the Premiership in this day and age is not to be scoffed at.
EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Stubbs, Lescott; Osman (Anichebe 68), Carsley, Arteta, Davies; T Cahill (Beattie 22); Johnson. Subs: Turner (gk), Weir, Hughes
ASTON VILLA (4-4-2): Sorensen; Mellberg, G Cahill, Ridgewell, Bouma; Agbonlahor, McCann, Osbourne, Petrov; Angel (Agathe 76), Sutton (Davis 91). Subs: Taylor (gk), Baros, Berger
Referee: P Dowd (Stoke)