Two superb strikes in as many minutes killed off a poor Sunderland team as David Moyes' side goes into Sunday's FA Cup semifinal with a confident victory at Goodison Park.
Magaye Gueye put the Toffees ahead with a blasted effort from close range, before Stephen Pienaar and Leon Osman scored two wonder goals within a minute of each other.
Substitute Victor Anichebe’s deflected effort then sealed a victory which extends Everton’s unbeaten run over the Black Cats to 18 games in all competitions.
David Moyes made five changes with Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal against Liverpool in mind, bringing in James McFadden for his first league start since returning to Goodison Park, as well as Marouane Fellaini, Denis Stracqualursi, Jonny Heitinga and Osman, while he rested Nikica Jelavic and Tim Cahill.
Sunderland was without striker Nicklas Bendtner, so David Vaughan came back into midfield with Stephane Sessegnon fulfilling the lone striker role. Phil Bardsley and Lee Cattermole both started despite doubts after they came off against Tottenham on Saturday.
Everton enjoyed the majority of the possession in the opening minutes as both sides looked for a foothold in the game early on. But apart from an Osman cross which couldn’t find an Everton player, the first 10 minutes saw little action.
As the game progressed, chances were still not forthcoming. Pienaar showed some good work down the right but Stracqualursi couldn’t meet his near post cross.
Sunderland was struggling without a target man, and when Sessegnon finally found some space, he tried a through ball for James McClean which was too far in front of the young winger and it rolled harmlessly through to Tim Howard.
Just before the 20-minute mark, Pienaar was cynically brought down by Cattermole 25 yards out, earning the Sunderland captain a booking. The resulting free kick was struck low by McFadden and took several deflections in the area before Sunderland could eventually clear.
Then the Toffees had an excellent chance to go in front. Pienaar found space in the middle and squared a pass to Magaye Gueye, who then pulled back to the South Africa international, but he got underneath the shot and the ball flew well over the bar.
Fellaini was next to have an attempt as the game looked like opening up. Pienaar was again involved, finding Fellaini in midfield, and the Belgian drilled a 25-yard effort which whistled wide of Simon Mignolet’s left-hand post.
Everton’s dominance continued to grow, and a Neville cross from the left almost found Pienaar in the box, but the visiting side was once again able to clear its lines. Osman then played a chipped pass to Fellaini who was in space in the area, but he attempted a first-time volley which sliced well wide.
Sunderland nearly went ahead in spectacular fashion five minutes before the break. Bardsley darted down the right wing and whipped in a cross towards Sessegnon who was unmarked, and the Benin international attempted a bicycle kick which a stationary Howard could only watch fly just wide.
As the game slowly approached halftime, Heitinga did well to win the ball in midfield and pass to McFadden, who worked the ball on to his left foot and shot from 25 yards out, forcing a low stop from Mignolet.
Sunderland then had an opening of its own as Vaughan worked the ball wide to McClean, who did well to step inside Tony Hibbert, but he tried a difficult effort from a tight angle, shooting well wide when a cross looked a better option.
The second half started with more Everton possession, and Stracqualursi was able to fend off a challenge to rise and meet another Neville cross, but it was a tame header and easily collected by Mignolet.
Phil Jagielka then met a corner at the near post, flashing a header wide of goal as Sunderland struggled to get out of its half.
And as Sunderland initially cleared another corner, Pieneaar nodded back to Osman whose first-time effort was parried by Mignolet, but only as far as Gueye, who blasted a left-footed shot into the net to finally break the deadlock.
Then, on 74 minutes, Gueye received the ball on the edge of the area and squared to Pienaar, who rolled the ball from under his feet to bend a superb shot into the right-hand corner of the net.
The points were sealed a minute later when Osman received a long ball on the edge of the area and cut inside to score a wonderful curling strike in the same corner as Pienaar had done only moments earlier.
Then Everton added further insult to injury with a fourth. The excellent Pienaar escaped two challenges on the right side to pull back to substitute Anichebe, whose strike was going wide before it deflected off Colback to wrong-foot Mignolet and fly into the net.
Drenthe nearly got in on the act himself with a curling free kick which drifted over, but the game was well won already as Everton cruised to a comfortable victory.
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