Having lost his England squad place during Sam Allardyce’s short, ill-fated reign, the season has been a challenge for the 22-year-old Liverpudlian who has been criticised by pundits and his own supporters alike, even losing his place at Goodison under new manager Ronald Koeman.
But his role in the 75th-minute goal, playing a pass half the length of the field for Lukaku before sprinting to the far post where he collected the Belgian’s cross and scored with a sumptuous half-volley, showed his wide-ranging abilities.
Lukaku was no less impressive, having already beaten Adrian on 50 minutes, after the Hammers goalkeeper only parried Seamus Coleman’s shot and the quick-thinking Yannick Bolasie pounced on the rebound, lifting across an empty goal for the striker to head in.
“Ross Barkley had more impact in the last part of our attacking,” said Koeman. “Not only in scoring but he was dangerous throughout. That’s what the team needs.
“He can be very good, but it is all about knowing what you need to do. Sometimes I have to shout too much, he needs to run more.
“It was one of his best performances of the season. He was working hard, he was tackling. Offensively, he was important in the game.”
The Hammers, looking for a fourth consecutive victory, started the game looking well capable of that aim; Payet predictably orchestrating the best attacking moments that saw them scythe their way through the Everton midfield.
Early on, Coleman had to make a goal-saving tackle to deny Michail Antonio at the far post before Payet set up Pedro Obiang who hurried his shot over from eight yards, under pressure from Ashley Williams.
Then Payet himself darted into space outside the Everton area before unleashing a strong shot which was well kept out by Joel Robles, starting a game for the first time this season, at full stretch.
But if Everton were living dangerously, they responded to their reprieve impressively, on 20 minutes, when Idrissa Gueye’s shot was deflected into the path of Lukaku just eight yards out but the pace of the ball rendered it uncontrollable.
Barkley showed great poise and footwork, dipping his shoulder to wrong-foot a defender following Bryan Oviedo’s cross and producing a powerful shot which drew a magnificent one-handed save from Adrian as he twisted in mid-air.
The momentum shift continued on the restart, Lukaku’s goal coming within five minutes, and Everton sought to press home their advantage, Mirallas laying the ball off for Barkley to clear the bar from 18 yards.
There were still warnings signs for the hosts, two in as many minutes, as first a Williams slip let in Antonio whose shot was well saved by Robles and then when Funes Mori was caught square by an Antonio through ball which allowed Andre Ayew to advance before being stopped by Oviedo’s challenge.
Mark Noble also came close to an equaliser, with a curling shot from 20 yards which saw Robles flying through the air to save two-handed.
Everton’s second goal killed off the contest but West Ham manager Slaven Bilic bemoaned the first as the crucial moment.
“The decisive moment. In the Premier League, if you make these kind of mistakes, usually it’s game over.
“I’m not saying they didn’t deserve it. They were more mature and more cruel than we were. When they were offered something from us they took it straight away, which we didn’t.”
Robles 6; Coleman 7, Williams 6, Funes Mori 6, Oviedo 7; Gueye 7, Barry 6; Bolasie 7 (Jagielka 82, 6), Barkley 9 (Lennon 87), Mirallas 6 (Cleverley 71, 6); Lukaku 8. Subs (not used) Hewelt, Deulofeu, Calvert-Lewin, Holgate.
Adrian 6; Kouyate 7, Reid 4, Ogbonna 5; Fernandes 5 (Zaza 70, 6), Noble 7, Obiang 6 (Ayew 60, 6), Cresswell 6; Payet 7, Antonio 8, Lanzini 7 (Feghouli 78, 6) 6. Subs (not used) Randolph, Nordtveit, Collins, Fletcher.
A Taylor 6