The mood stayed sombre at Goodison Park long after an emotional tribute to the victims of Hillsborough and their families' indefatigable search for the truth. By the close it was a seething mass once more thanks to disallowed goals, legitimate goals not given and an emphatic riposte from Demba Ba towards his own manager. Football was back on its axis.
Everton anger was directed firmly at the assistant referee Ceri Richards, who not only denied Marouane Fellaini a goal for offside when the Belgian midfielder was level but compounded his error when failing to spot that Victor Anichebe's 79th-minute header had crossed the Newcastle United line. Richards, and Everton, almost escaped when Anichebe drove Everton back into the lead with two minutes remaining, yet there remained time for Ba, smarting from starting on the bench, to beat Tim Howard for a second time.
Alan Pardew, serving his touchline ban in the directors' box, leapt from his seat at injury-hit Newcastle's stirring response to a first-half display that he later branded the worst of his managerial tenure. On the touchline below David Moyes stewed.
"It's a difficult call but you would still hope a linesman running that line would see the ball cross the line. That is his job," the Everton manager said. "There are two goals they missed but I can't get them back. I don't know how the linesman missed them. I had a word with them, not ranting and raving, but there's nothing you can do about it. We played very well and should have won the game but didn't. We've only got ourselves to blame for that."
Moyes was right. Everton should have put the game to bed long before Newcastle and their makeshift defence roused themselves. The visitors' recovery was inspired by Ba and aided by carelessness in the home ranks from Leon Osman, Sylvain Distin and Howard. "The first half was as bad as I've seen us play in my time as Newcastle manager," said Pardew. "It was a team that lacked belief but Demba's performance in the second half gave us that belief. Technology must come in and it has cost Everton a crucial goal tonight, but I think we just about deserved a point on our second-half showing."
Everton got their opening right in every respect. For the first Premier League game on Merseyside since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's findings, the teams were led on to the pitch by one mascot in royal blue with '9' on the back and one in Liverpool red with '6'. Side by side they stood as the names of the 96 rolled for an excruciating length of time across the giant screens.
Moyes also captured the prevailing mood on Merseyside in programme notes that are worth repeating. He wrote; "I applaud the families who continued to fight for the ones they loved. The outcome was nothing short of disgraceful. We have all been brought up to believe and trust in authority. The authorities who were responsible for ensuring the safety of supporters that afternoon let themselves down, as have the government parties who have been in power since. Praise must go to Andy Burnham and the families for getting disclosure."
From a poignant beginning Everton eventually roused themselves as Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar tore through the Newcastle right. Pardew said: "That left flank of Everton's is as good as any in Europe." One devastating burst saw Baines exchange passes with Pienaar, take the South African's back-heeled flick in his stride and then beat Steve Harper with a low finish for a 1-0 lead.
Everton wasted several more chances before Ba altered the flow of the contest. Baines had cleared a Vurnon Anita effort off the line in the first half but Everton were otherwise untroubled until Pardew, branded "crazy" on Twitter by Ba's brother Hamady for leaving the Senegal striker on the bench, brought Ba on. A mistake by Osman handed possession to Yohan Cabaye and his fine pass enabled Ba to spin away from Phil Jagielka and beat Howard with a rolled finish.
Then came the mayhem. Fellaini was denied, as was Anichebe after Harper had turned his header on to the bar only to see it drop over the line. The Everton substitute channelled his fury superbly to spin on to Pienaar's pass and find the bottom corner but Ba, latching on to Shola Ameobi's flick, had the final say.
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image: © Ben Sutherland