Everton are not yet playing well enough to look like the side who finished fifth in the Premier League last season, but they can look back on a satisfactory week with grounds for optimism after Louis Saha's late goal sent his former club back to London unluckily empty-handed.
It meant that an eight-day period that began with a draw against Manchester United and continued with a midweek win at Bolton has yielded seven points to give Everton only one fewer than at the same stage of last season, regardless of their form.
Their manager, David Moyes, had privately feared that Everton's struggle to find their feet might have offeredhis former striker Andy Johnson the chance to add a painful postscript to the story of his summer departure from Goodison by scoring the decisive goal. Instead it was Saha, the former Fulham striker with whom he replaced Johnson, who provided the moment that mattered, coming off the bench to bolster a labouring attack and popping up with a fine header three minutes from time to convert a Leon Osman cross and register his first goal for Everton, as well as their first home win this season.
The signing of Saha from United looked like a gamble in view of the Frenchman's injury history, but Moyes believes Everton might be about to benefit from a return to the Fulham form that persuaded United to pay £12.5 million for him in January 2004.
"So far he has missed only one day's training, and hopefully that fact as well as today's goal will boost his confidence," Moyes said. "This is like a new start from him. He has probably played as many games in the last two or three weeks as he has in the last six months, and I think he will thrive on games."
Everton's goalscoring record suggests that they need him to do that. Although Yakubu had one effort ruled out for a foul on Mark Schwarzer yesterday, he is without a goal in nine matches and no other striker has made a strong enough case to take his place.
There was not much of a threat to Fulham before the goal, although the central midfielder Marouane Fellaini,looking for a fourth in five games, hit a post in the first half and should have won a penalty when Brede Hangeland used his shoulders for leverage to make a clearance. It was a surprise that Moyes took offthe Belgian after an hour, although given that it was his replacement who scored it was difficult to argue with the decision.
A goal had looked more likely from Fulham, for whom Jimmy Bullard and Danny Murphy were the more effective combination in midfield. Zoltan Gera hit the underside of the bar from a Bobby Zamora cross and the latter should have scored when the home goalkeeper, Tim Howard, could only push away a difficult Bullard free-kick.
"I thought we did enough to take a point at least," the Fulham manager, Roy Hodg-son, said. "But it is goals that win matches and we had two golden chances that we did not take."