Baines spares Everton from defeat at Stoke
Leighton Baines's injury-time penalty earned Everton a 1-1 draw at Stoke City on Wednesday, but he could not prevent his side slipping out of the Premier League's top four.
Having fallen to only their second loss of the season at home to Sunderland last week, Everton were left staring defeat in the face again after on-loan Liverpool winger Oussama Assaidi gave Stoke a 49th-minute lead.
However, with 91 minutes on the clock, Everton midfielder Leon Osman was scythed down by Stoke substitute Jermaine Pennant and Baines stroked the ensuing spot-kick into the bottom-left corner.
It was the England international's first goal since he returned from a month-long spell on the sidelines with a broken toe.
The 29-year-old's strike enabled Roberto Martinez's side to avoid starting 2014 with a defeat, but Liverpool's 2-0 win at home to Hull City saw them steal into the Champions League place at their city rivals' expense.
Stoke, meanwhile, remain 12th, having been condemned in cruel fashion to a third consecutive game without victory following a 5-1 loss at Newcastle United and last weekend's 3-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.
Everton had the best of the first half at the Britannia Stadium, with Gareth Barry heading over from a Baines corner and James McCarthy forcing Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen to save at his near post.
In reply, Peter Crouch headed just wide for Stoke, but on the half hour Kevin Mirallas came within a whisker of putting Everton in front with a 20-yard shot that came back off the crossbar.
Assaidi saw a shot deflected narrowly wide by Antolin Alcaraz, but Everton finished the half strongly, with Mirallas hitting the bar again, from a free-kick, and Romelu Lukaku heading narrowly wide.
An Achilles injury to Sorensen saw Jack Butland handed his Stoke debut at half-time, but Mark Hughes's men made light of that setback by going ahead after four minutes of the second period.
Everton defender John Stones, making his first league start, could only head the ball as far as Assaidi, who fired a crisp low shot past Tim Howard from the edge of the box.
The visitors threatened through Mirallas, Ross Barkley and Steven Naismith, but the equaliser looked destined to elude them until Pennant's rush of blood to the head.