Frank Lampard faces the unthinkable as 30 cruel minutes ask new questions at Everton

And so this nightmare of a season takes one more hellish twist.

What felt unthinkable in August and unlikely in January now appears increasingly realistic.

With nine games to go make absolutely no mistake, Everton are in a fight for survival.

The fans know that. They knew it before the game but they are in no doubt now.

The traveling thousands once again did everything in their power to push their beloved club to victory, arriving at Turf Moor in hope of a win that would place daylight between the Blues and the drop zone.

For a few games at least, falling asleep would have been a little easier.

Instead it was the home crowd whose voices could be heard late into the rain and darkness of a miserable East Lancashire night for Everton.

Defeat came at the hands of a cruel, messy tangle that summed up a cruel, messy season so far.

Ben Godfrey, who earlier had burst forward in a lung-busting run as Everton sought to take all three points, got his legs tangled trying to clear a cross and substitute Matej Vydra pulled back to find Maxwel Cornet. For the third time in 90 minutes a goal that pierced the hearts of Everton fans was conceded from just yards out.

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It was a tough conclusion to a game in which the visitors had shown promise.

On so many occasions this season they have collapsed in the face of adversity.

Whether it be through conceding sloppy goals, making poor decisions or being let down by questionable refereeing, they have crumbled when things have gone against them.

That was not the case at Turf Moor. On a night that threatened to mean so much in the battle for survival they threw everything at trying to get three points.

Twice they wrestled control of the game after conceding big goals at potentially decisive times.

After losing the early exchanges they fell behind to a Nathan Collins goal that should have been prevented.

Collins prodded home, unmarked at the back post from a Cornet corner, and after just a dozen minutes every Evertonian’s nightmare looked set to become a reality.

But after being dealt such a frustrating setback Alex Iwobi continued to show for the ball, Anthony Gordon maintained his hunt for space and Richarlison still snapped and snarled.

It was a response that allowed them straight back into the match when Gordon was brought down by Ashley Westwood.

Richarlison slotted home and the game appeared to have been transformed.

Everton had found a platform upon which they could build and dominated in the aftermath of the equalizer. It was now their turn to win the 50-50s, to grab hold of the game and to threaten.

Time after time their menace came from Richarlison. He almost doubled his tally with a curling effort tipped over by Nick Pope, came close again when put through with Dominic Calvert-Lewin by Iwobi then beat both Wout Weghorst and Connor Roberts to reach the byline.

As Everton probed down Burnley’s left, Vitaliy Mykolenko burst into the box. The left back was infuriated as his protests for a penalty were waved away. Yet the Burnley crowd that was calling for him to be booked was then silenced by Mike Dean being called over to the VAR monitor.

VAR, which has been so cruel to Everton, came up with a major intervention at just the right time.

Richarlison’s all-action first half performance felt like a case of the Brazilian stepping up just when his side needed him most. For all his fight and persistence of him, it was his composure of him that shone through as he scored from 12 yards for a second time.

All was right with the world. The Premier League table, after 45 minutes, was one that Blues could look at once again. Three points would have meant a six point gap to the drop zone and a seven point lead on the hosts, arguably their biggest threat.

That is not football, however. When Jay Rodriguez leveled – again all too easily – it was a body blow on the hour mark.

Yet Everton came again. They dominated possession. They created opportunities. They looked more likely to find a winner.

And then it happened. As the nerves and tension and anxiety in the stands found its way onto the pitch the ball fell to Vydra. Then to Cornet.

A gap to the bottom three that, less than 30 minutes earlier appeared so healthy, has largely disappeared.

Everton are just one point from the relegation zone with a weaker goal difference than Burnley, whose supporters will call this a memorable night.

More crucially they head to Norwich with momentum. Everton return to Goodison Park with more questions than answers.

And so the nightmare continues.

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