Brighton & Hove Albion thrashed Frank Lampard's Everton 4-1 in their first Premier League game of 2023 to leave the Blues hovering above the relegation zone after another horrendous defensive display.
The result is likely to heap pressure on manager Frank Lampard, who saw his side secure a gritty 1-1 draw with champions Manchester City on New Year's Eve only to capitulate completely early in the second half at Goodison Park against Brighton.
Winger Kaoru Mitoma, who scored in Brighton's 4-2 home defeat by Arsenal in their last outing, wasted an early chance with a header but more than made up for it with a clinical run and finish in the 14th minute to open the scoring.
Brighton's teenaged Irish striker Evan Ferguson, rewarded with his first league start after coming off the bench to score against Arsenal, blasted home a first-time shot seven minutes into the second half to extend the visitors' lead.
That goal prompted a complete defensive collapse by Everton as Solly March was allowed to waltz across the Everton defence before firing home in the 54th minute.
Everton reacted by going up the other end and winning a corner, but any chance they had of clawing their way back into the game was snuffed out when Brighton won the ball and countered, with Pascal Gross netting their fourth with a lovely chipped finish in the 57th.
It took until stoppage time for Everton to get a consolation goal, Demarai Gray scoring from the spot after Alex Iwobi was fouled by keeper Roberto Sanchez, but it was cold comfort for the home fans, who booed their side loudly at the final whistle.
The result leaves Everton in 16th place on 15 points after 18 games, a point above the drop zone and only three ahead of basement side Southampton, with the bottom four having a game in hand on the Blues. Brighton are up to eighth on 27 points.
"Great result, obviously, bouncing back from last week (losing to Arsenal), it was probably the best we could ask for," Brighton goalscorer Ferguson said.
"We came in at halftime and knew we could do better and knew we had them. We came and tried to give our best. Luckily the goals came through," he added.