Everton 3 Liverpool 3
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to snatch a draw in a pulsating 221st Merseyside derby not without its share of controversy.
The England international was not deemed fit enough to start after playing 90 minutes against Germany in midweek with a dead leg but came on to salvage a point for the Reds in a 3-3 draw.
Prior to his 89th-minute intervention it appeared Everton’s Kevin Mirallas would be the man to remember as the home side twice came from behind.
The Belgium international may have been outdone by compatriot Romelu Lukaku, who scored twice in the second half, but he had a hand in all three goals.
However, the debate will rage as to whether he should have been on the pitch for the last two assists for a knee-high challenge on Luis Suarez which could - and probably should – have seen red.
Philippe Coutinho and Suarez had put the visitors ahead scoring either side of Mirallas’ equaliser and although Lukaku appeared to have turned the result on its head Sturridge had the final say.
For all the preamble about this being a derby for the purists and a fiesta of passing football from two like-minded managers, it was slightly ironic five goals came from set-pieces.
Roberto Martinez encourages his Everton squad to play with freedom but he would not have been happy they afforded that luxury to Coutinho from Steven Gerrard’s fifth-minute corner.
The Reds captain swung over his cross from the left, Suarez could not get the significant touch to direct it goalwards but it was enough to send it to the little unmarked Brazilian who smashed home a shot at the far post that James McCarthy on the line could not stop.
A raucous Goodison Park was silenced briefly but within three minutes they had regained their voice.
Ross Barkley somehow got to Leighton Baines’ free-kick ahead of Martin Skrtel and diverted it to Mirallas who nipped in front of Gerrard to stab home.
That was the boost the home side needed and when Lukaku raced forward after Steven Pienaar had robbed Gerrard on halfway only the speed of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet coming off his line snuffed out the danger.
Up to that point Suarez, whose last appearance at Goodison was mired in controversy after an apparent stamp on Sylvain Distin and a last-minute wrongly-disallowed goal, had been quiet.
Maybe he was getting over the jet lag from a 7,000-mile trip on owner John Henry’s private plane after Uruguay’s World Cup qualifying play-off in South America but by the 19th minute he had livened up.
Fouled by McCarthy the striker picked himself up to curl a brilliant free-kick through the tiny gap left between the end of the wall and Pienaar.
Howard appeared to have it covered but some late spin saw it creep just inside the American’s left-hand post.
Everton responded again with Barkley, restored to the starting line-up, forcing Mignolet to tip behind for a corner with Mirallas firing wide after cutting in from the right.
The Belgian then sparked what could have been a pivotal moment when he clattered into Suarez’s right knee as the pair challenged for the ball leaving his opponent in a heap on the floor.
Suarez may have a reputation for going down easily but this was one of those occasions when his pain looked genuine and the only excuse referee Phil Dowd could surely have had for just showing a yellow card was that he was unsighted.
While the Liverpool striker eventually lasted 90 minutes Baines did not and just after the break was substituted, presumably injured, for the first time in the league since 2008.
With Gareth Barry moving to left-back substitute Gerard Deulofeu, on loan from Barcelona, could have made himself an instant hero after outpacing the defence but mis-hit his shot and Mignolet saved.
Joe Allen, starting his first Premier League match since March, could have put the game to bed after Suarez’s dribble fell to him with only Howard to beat but from 10 yards out he missed the target.
Mignolet was the goalkeeper who was by far the busier and he denied Lukaku three times as Everton pushed for the equaliser.
However, from the last effort the Belgium international could only parry his compatriot’s free-kick and when Mirallas crossed back in Lukaku seized on McCarthy’s deflection to ram home.
Still the chances came: Howard producing a brilliant block to keep out Suarez’s close-range header and Mignolet denying Deulofeu.
But there was no stopping Lukaku’s powerful header from a corner – taken by Mirallas – eight minutes from time.
That appeared to have settled it until Sturridge nodded home Gerrard’s free-kick to ensure honours finished even.