New Everton manager David Moyes got the perfect start as the Toffees edged past Fulham at Goodison Park this afternoon. It looked like the former Preston North End boss was on his way to a commanding victory as David Unsworth’s first-minute strike represented a dream start – and that was swiftly added to by an on-song Duncan Ferguson. But the home crowd, and Moyes, were made to sweat after Thomas Gravesen’s dismissal before the half hour. Fulham dominated the remainder of the contest, with Steed Malbranque halving their deficit, and were denied an equaliser when Louis Saha’s late header struck the crossbar.

Moyes punched the air after the final whistle in celebration of only Everton’s second victory in fourteen league matches. They clung on defiantly despite incessant Fulham pressure in the second half – and that gritty rearguard action seemed a world away from the adventurous nature of their ambitious start. Moyes had not only reinstated Ferguson to the starting line-up, but handed him the captain’s armband and the Scot repaid his new manager’s faith with a virtuoso display up front.

Ferguson created Everton’s first goal and scored the second. He lit the blue touchpaper within six seconds by finding Tomasz Radzinski with his first touch and the Canadian teed up Unsworth, who lashed a venomous left-footed finish past a stunned Edwin van der Sar with just 31 seconds on the clock. Ferguson then caused Fulham’s Dutch goalkeeper considerable embarrassment thirteen minutes later. He charged down van der Sar’s weak clearance, got control of the loose ball and rolled it into an empty net to score one of the most straightforward goals of his career.

Goodison Park felt buoyant but the party atmosphere was flattened when Gravesen was shown a red card by Graham Barber for his second reckless challenge in a matter of minutes. Both managers made changes at half time, with Moyes replacing the injured Radzinski with Joe-Max Moore but Jean Tigana’s double change – which saw Barry Hayles and Abdeslam Ouaddou replace Alain Goma and Luis Boa Morte – gave the Whites an extra dimension in attack.

Fulham found a way back within seven minutes of the restart. Hayles hared down the right and produced the perfect cutback for Malbranque to fire home from six yards and the visitors continued to pen Everton back for the remainder of the second half. John Collins almost came back to haunt his former employers with a low shot that whistled just wide, although Everton’s luckiest escape came with six minutes remaining when Saha saw his free header beat Simonsen but came back off the crossbar.

EVERTON (4-4-2): Simonsen, Pistone, Weir, Stubbs, Unsworth (Blomqvist 75), Hibbert, Carsley, Gemmill, Gravesen, Radzinski (Moore 45), Ferguson. Subs (not used): Gerrard, Clarke, Chadwick.

BOOKED: Gravesen, Unsworth, Moore.

SENT OFF: Gravesen.

GOALS: Unsworth (1), Ferguson (14).

FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Goma (Ouaddoh 45); Collins, Legwinski (Goldbaek 78), Malbranque, Boa Morte (Hayles 45); Marlet, Saha. Subs (not used): Taylor, Harley.

BOOKED: Finnan, Brevett, Hayles.

GOAL: Malbranque (52).

REFEREE: Graham Barber (Tring).