NO wonder David Moyes was urging referee Lee Mason to blow the final whistle so fervently.
Sixteen seconds added to injury time shouldn’t make much of a difference to a resilient defensive outfit, but so often when it matters lately Everton simply aren’t a resilient defensive outfit.
Earlier in this watershed season they were perhaps less watertight because of their new-found cavalier attacking instinct – these days it’s just infectious panic.
Now their tendency to forget the basics at the final hurdle has pushed their Champions league credentials further into the category marked tenuous. Everton have conceded in the last 15 minutes a damaging nine times this season, and they just haven’t been scoring the goals to take the sting out of such carelessness.
What’s more they have now surrendered game-changing goals in the 90th minute or later on five occasions. It’s a discernible problem which must be quickly solved.
For 93 minutes and 16 seconds at Carrow Road on Saturday, it was set to be the familiar story of Everton regretting their inability to both keep a clean sheet while finishing off inferior opponents.
Then it got worse. Much worse.
Time eventually ran out too late for Moyes men. There was a nagging fear that it was the end for much more.
Short of a Herculean return to form in conjunction with an unlikely collapse for Spurs, qualifying for the Europa League seems a more realistic prospect than Europe’s elite club competition.
With 11 Premier League games remaining it would be premature to write their top four hopes off completely, but the Blues have certainly made life difficult for themselves.
Everton’s squad is lacking zest at the time they need it most, and the club’s failure to add attacking impetus in January is being placed in stark and predictable perspective.
MLS import Kai Kamara looked like the sort of lively loan signing Everton craved.
Sadly he entered an otherwise drab contest in a yellow shirt, and proceeded to change the game in the hosts’ favour.
Everton’s pursuit of high-quality additions such as Leroy Fer and Alvaro Negredo in January were admirably ambitious.
But as bids for the pair only materialised towards the middle and end of the month, it’s hard not to wonder whether that undermined the club’s ability to draft in short-term loan captures to supplement the squad’s attacking options.
Granted Moyes was able to call on his own potential game changer in Kevin Mirallas, but that switch came at the expense of a formerly bona fide goalscorer in Nikica Jelavic.
The Blues boss had not hesitated in reminding Jelavic beforehand of the all encompassing importance attached to him finding form. But based on this evidence the Scot will be waiting a while.
As usual it’s not down to a lack of endeavour. Jelavic toils gamely but when the openings which he would once have dispatched ruthlessly arrive, he oozes self doubt. It’s painful to watch.
The hope is that one decisive flourish will once again open the flood gates. Let’s hope Oldham feel the backlash on Tuesday, but even that encounter will bring its own problems if Everton continue to defend so feebly when the pressure is on.
Their downfall in Norwich was all the more frustrating because they largely controlled the game, and looked the better side despite Norwich’s spirited start.
Just six minutes had gone when Wes Hoolahan played in Robert Snodgrass who had his close-range shot blocked by Sylvain Distin and deflected over the bar.
Then Distin almost set up Jelavic at the other end when the Croatian chested down his long punt skilfully but his stabbed effort lacked conviction and was saved at the near post by Mark Bunn.
The struggling forward might have been labouring under that stark warning from his manager, but he at least seemed up for the challenge; taking up good positions and stretching the hosts back line in the first half an hour.
The Blues began to ratchet up the early pressure, with Steven Pienaar causing trouble by drifting into the middle and again suggesting he is closing in on his best form, although they still lacked a final cutting edge.
In the end it took an old head to get them off the mark. Luciano Becchio had almost teed up Grant Holt who had his shot well saved by Tim Howard, with the Blues high defensive line leaving them vulnerable on the break.
But they weathered the danger and Leighton Baines sent a smart cross to the near post and the unmarked Leon Osman planted his header confidently past Mark Bunn.
Jelavic’s presence had diverted the attention of both Norwich’s central defenders, a reminder that they haven’t forgotten what he is capable of doing to opponents.
After the break Kamara drew a save from Howard with an acrobatic effort, then he sent a downward header just wide of the American’s left-hand post.
Then Darron Gibson , not operating at his best due to the injury he is currently carrying, swept an effort over the crossbar at the other end.
The crucial second didn’t come, and like at Goodison when the sides last met, the Blues were made to pay in the end. First Kamara rose highest to power home Snodgrass’ corner from the left, as Marouane Fellaini failed to challenge the Sierra Leonean convincingly. Just like at Oldham Everton dropped deeper and deeper. Snodgrass sent in another teasing cross, and when Sebastien Bassong climbed highest at the far post, Holt was there to bundle the ball home.
Cue angry scenes as Moyes strode onto the pitch to demand answers from the match official about his inexplicable decision to add that extra, extra time. But deep down he will know he has greater problems to solve than erratic referees.