Marco Silva oversaw his first Everton win as Theo Walcott and Richarlison goals proved enough to continue Southampton’s Goodison Park hoodoo.
There is a sense of optimism growing around the blue half of Merseyside, having finally got the man they wanted in the dugout and made a string of smart summer transfers.
Onlookers baulked at the fee forked out for Richarlison, but the Brazilian continued his fine start at Everton by netting his third for the club after Walcott’s opener to ensure a 2-1 win against a Southampton side that pulled one back through Danny Ings early into a vastly-improved second half.
The relief was palpable at the final whistle as Silva’s men held on at a packed Goodison Park, where Saints’ wait for a win stretches back to 1997.
Walcott opened the scoring at the end of a smart free-kick routine and Richarlison extended Everton’s advantage with a header after Jordan Pickford directed Ings’ effort on to the woodwork.
Saints stepped up after half-time and former Liverpool striker Ings scored his first for the hometown club, but the visitors were unable to draw level as the Toffees held out for three points.
Few foresaw such an anxious second period given the way Mark Hughes’ men had been bullied for large swathes of the first half, with high balls and Gylfi Sigurdsson set pieces unsettling the visitors.
Charlie Austin headed wide when James Ward-Prowse flexed his own dead-ball prowess, but Everton’s set piece variety caught Saints napping in the 15th minute.
Leighton Baines’ low ball befuddled the visitors, with Morgan Schneiderlin meeting it with a smart flick into the path of another former Saints player as Walcott prodded home.
Saints racked up the bookings as they struggled to respond, with Everton having attempts through Michael Keane and Cenk Tosun before Schneiderlin was forced off injured.
Saints were struggling to impose themselves but were nearly gifted a leveller by Pickford.
In front of Gareth Southgate, the England goalkeeper spilled Cedric Soares’ hopeful long-range effort, only to atone with a superb touch that took Ings’ follow-up on to the bar.
It was a rare spell of Saints pressure and Richarlison soon landed another blow. Having recovered from an awkward fall, the Brazilian met Walcott’s cross with a header that beat Alex McCarthy in the 31st minute.
Southampton were struggling in terms of defence and discipline, with Ings one of few bright spots.
The full debutant glanced a header wide just before the break and continued to threaten the Toffees’ backline after.
The ex-Liverpool striker would inject renewed hope into Saints nine minutes into the second half, directing home after Mario Lemina flicked on a Ward-Prowse corner.
Jack Stephens became the fifth Saints player booked for a late challenge that many home fans believed should have led to a red, with frustration rising as Walcott saw a goal ruled out for offside before striking agonisingly wide.
Everton had belatedly jolted back into life, but the visitors were still having opportunities.
Ings was furious after being hit by Pickford in a heavy clearance and seeing his shirt ripped, before the Everton goalkeeper denied a Ward-Prowse free-kick.
McCarthy pushed Idrissa Gana Gueye’s shot wide as the clock wound down, with Everton emerging victorious.