Everton should be targeting Europa League football next season, said manager Carlo Ancelotti after the Toffees renaissance continued with a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday.
At the other end of the table, Brighton and Watford did little to boost their chances of beating the drop in a 1-1 draw at the Amex.
Goals from Bernard, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin at Goodison lifted Everton up to seventh and within five points of the top four.
Everton have now won five and drawn two of eight league games since Ancelotti took charge in December.
“Since I arrived the team did a fantastic job,” Ancelotti told BT Sport. “Now we have a possibility to think about Europa League.”
By contrast, Palace are looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
Roy Hodgson’s men still have a six-point lead over the bottom three, but have not won in eight games and just once in the league since early December.
“I can’t fault the players’ effort, but it’s another defeat and another we go home without points,” said Hodgson.
Bernard gave the hosts a deserved first half lead with a thumping finish from Theo Walcott’s cross to the back post.
However, Palace were gifted a route back into the game six minutes into the second half thanks to another error from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The England number one’s place at Euro 2020 is under debate and he let Christian Benteke’s shot slip underneath his body as the Belgian striker registered his first goal of the season.
“Disgusting. I was disappointed with myself,” said Pickford, who later made amends with a fine save to preserve Everton’s 2-1 lead.”
AFP / Oli SCARFF
Everton have lost just one of eight league games since Carlo Ancelotti took charge
Just as Everton were wobbling, though, a moment of magic from Richarlison swung the game back in their favour seven minutes later.
The Brazilian stormed onto Calvert-Lewin’s flick-on to carry the ball from just inside the Palace half and past Gary Cahill before placing his shot into the far corner.
The same two players were involved when Everton sealed the points two minutes from time as Richarlison’s header from a corner came off the bar and Calvert-Lewin turned home his 13th goal of the season.
Watford remain in the bottom three after blowing a lead for the third game in succession.
Abdoulaye Doucoure’s fine individual run and finish put the Hornets ahead on the south coast after 19 minutes.
Brighton are without a win in 2020 and seemed short of ideas in their search for an equaliser. They were given a helping hand by the visitors when Adrian Mariappa turned into his own goal 12 minutes from time.
The Seagulls move three points clear of the relegation zone with Watford one point adrift of safety.