Stoke City: Jerome has a ton of fun as he comes of the bench to rescue Stoke
TAKE a bow Cameron Jerome for netting Stoke City's 100th Premier League goal at the Britannia Stadium.
And take a bow Cameron Jerome for sparing the blushes of Peter "OUCH".
Poor old Crouchy looked like he could have won the game for Everton after the ball bounced off him for a bizarre own goal just before the break.
But Jerome, one of three second-half substitutes chucked on to enliven an already livelier Stoke side, brought the house down with a rampaging run through the middle to deservedly level.
Stoke weren't always quite so lively and effective, especially during the first period, but they got their act together in time to deny a typically resilient Everton outfit happy to take the draw well before the end.
City's performance certainly possessed admirable effort and durability after following hard on the heels of another thoroughly decent offering three days earlier against Arsenal.
The end of their season can hardly be said to be ending with a bang, but nor is it ending with the whimper we once feared.
Stoke, showing three changes after Matthew Upson, Rory Delap and Kenwyne Jones were handed rare starts, saw their first-half attacking threat centred largely, but not exclusively, around Delap's throw and Robert Huth's head.
It was a combination causing Everton plenty of duress as Delap, fresh from signing a new contract, sought to tee up his first goal of the season from that once prolific throw of his.
He was pinging them in like days of old as Huth met his first with a goal-bound header that struck Ryan Shawcross standing offside in front of Everton keeper Tim Howard.
Another right-wing missile had Everton staring at the stars once more as Huth connected with a header which passed no more than a yard over the bar.
Matthew Etherington, having just enjoyed a fine left-wing raid and cross, was suffering similar ill luck after controlling a half-clearance from another Stoke attack before volleying just beyond both keeper and crossbar.
Stoke were grateful to see that Asmir Begovic's handling and reactions were in far healthier form than his kicking in the first 45.
The Stoke keeper took time off from peppering the touchline to drop smartly and prevent Leon Osman's snapshot from causing problems.
Begovic was forgivably helpless when substitute Magaye Gueye's left-wing cross reared off the turf and struck Nikica Jelavic's knees before looping just over.
But the Bosnian keeper was back in impressive action towards the end of the half when little more than a fingernail was applied to Steven Pienaar's rasping effort to ensure a corner instead of a goal.
There was to be no such reprieve in the 44th minute, however, when Begovic was beaten in the most unfortunate circumstances imaginable by what was apparently the 1,000th goal in the Premier League this season.
Tony Hibbert's cross from the Everton right was missed by a leaping Tim Cahill, but the ball struck Marc Wilson and then cannoned against Crouch before creeping past a helpless Begovic as he dived low at his near post.
Crouch couldn't have looked more non-plussed had Fabio Capello picked him for England.
Stoke's support tried admirably to arouse their somewhat subdued players at the start of a second period that could have seen Everton double their lead had the referee not ignored ambitious shouts for handball against Huth.
Everton had far more cause to rue events five minutes later when Pienaar pulled the ball back for Osman to slice wastefully wide of an inviting target.
Jon Walters, his head bandaged after a first-half collision with Sylvan Distin, swapped wings with Etherington and showed signs of attacking with purpose as the home side strove to raise their tempo in the final third.
Jones twice went down in the Everton penalty area to inspire vociferous shouts from the Boothen End, but on each occasion the referee offered nothing more than a contemptuous glance.
Stoke were certainly building up a head of steam past the hour mark, but that didn't prevent a triple substitution that saw Jerome, Ricardo Fuller and Glenn Whelan all thrown into the mix.
And the change bore almost immediate dividends. A long ball down the middle in the 69th minute left Jerome careering goalwards and taking Everton's two centre-halves with him.
The ball wasn't always under control, in truth, but he maintained sufficient balance to eventually exploit any good fortune by unleashing a shot that clipped off a diving defender to help confound Howard's low dive.
Jerome made a beeline for the bench he had only recently vacated by way of a celebration rarely bettered for those previous 99 goals at the Britannia.
The force was now with Stoke, not least in the twinkle-toed Fuller on the left flank, as the Boothen End roared their players goalwards.
At the other end, meanwhile, Osman remained Everton's most likely goalscorer as the inventive Pienaar picked him out again for a neat shot deflected into Begovic's waiting arms.
It was the hosts going closest to snatching the points during four added minutes, but a Huth shot was blocked at close quarters and the follow up was volleyed over by Jones.
Fuller's trickery on the ball earned one last opportunity from a long-distance free-kick that Huth powered off target before his wayward effort deflected off a defender to force Howard into a fine low save.
Just how crucial a save became apparent two seconds later when the referee called time.