Portsmouth 0 Everton 1
Louis Saha condemned Portsmouth to a seventh successive Barclays Premier League defeat in a pulsating showdown at Fratton Park.
Saha struck his seventh goal of the season with a clinical finish which gave resurgent Everton a first-half lead they never relinquished.
It extended the Toffees’ winning run to fourth matches – but the result was harsh on Portsmouth, who failed to take their chances once again.
Superior for lengthy spells, they created a host of opportunities with Aaron Mokoena hitting the crossbar and Tal Ben Haim failing from point-blank range.
Goalkeeper Tim Howard played a full part in frustrating Pompey, making several fine saves, but David Moyes’ side rode their luck at times and cleared two shots off the line.
While Everton are heading up the table, crisis club Portsmouth are rooted to the bottom as the worst start in Premier League history continues unchecked.
Fans started a chant of ’There’s only one Peter Storrie’ in response to reports the Pompey chief executive is on the brink of resigning.
But the cries quickly petered out, as might Storrie’s reign at Fratton Park if he is not given the reassurances he seeks over the club’s financial position.
In a show of unity, Storrie took his place in the stands alongside new owner Sulaiman Al Fahim, who has promised to injected £50million over the next month.
Al Fahim has dismissed suggestions Pompey could be the first Premier League club to enter administration, but today’s outcome will have done little to lift the gloom at Fratton Park.
There was little evidence of the boardroom uncertainty on the pitch where the home side were ambitious and incisive, setting the tone with a lively opening largely orchestrated by Kevin-Prince Boateng.
The German created an early half-chance for Jamie O’Hara and then Tommy Smith, but both players were closed down quickly.
He played another slick pass to Dindane and the Ivory Coast forward, making his Premier League debut, raced into the area only to scuff his shot while under pressure from John Heitinga.
Showing greater intent in attack, Everton created a tricky chance when Steven Pienaar crossed for Tim Cahill – but the Australian glanced his header over the crossbar.
Just as Everton seemed to be tightening the screw, Pompey broke free with some rapid passing through midfield.
Smith threaded a perfectly-weighted ball into the area where Dindane, under pressure from Sylvain Distin, pulled the trigger – only for Tim Howard to produce a fine save.
It was then James’ turn to show his reflexes, the England veteran thrusting out a leg to block Fellaini’s header.
Boateng managed to turn former Pompey defender Distin, who was frequently jeered by home fans, inside out but skied his shot having done the hard work.
Chances were coming at both ends, but it was Everton who made the breakthrough when Saha found the net in the 42nd minute.
The Frenchman beat Younes Kaboul in the air to head down a long, high ball by Heitinga and pounced, directing a strong finish past James.
Pompey should have equalised five minutes into the second half but defender Tal Ben Haim, having slipped free to meet O’Hara’s free-kick, directed his header straight at Howard’s shoulder when the goal was at his mercy.
Pienaar was derided by home fans for limping from the pitch following a tackle, returning moments later and then slumping to the floor once again. He was eventually carried off on a stretcher.
Substitute Diniyar Bilyaletdinov floated a corner to the far post where Fellaini was denied by James and then Smith came to Pompey’s rescue by clearing Cahill’s effort off the line.
Aaron Mokoena rattled the bar as Pompey searched bravely for the equaliser and they appeared to have snatched a point only for Leighton Baines to clear Hassan Yebda’s header off the line.
Boateng was denied by Howard four minutes into injury-time as Everton clung onto their lead.