ROBERT HUTH'S first goal for Stoke City was enough to halt Everton's five match winning streak in an entertaining game at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon.
The German international defender headed home the opening goal of the game five minutes into the second half, however, the hosts levelled just minutes later when Everton's stand-in skipper Leon Osman curled home an outstanding effort from 25-yards.
The Potters looked the more likely to snatch all three points late on with Ricardo Fuller going close, however, a point from a game which Tony Pulis described as one of the hardest of the season, represents a superb return.
Ahead of the game, City's boss sprung a surprise by naming Salif Diao in his starting line up after he declared himself fit following a calf injury which he picked up during pre-season. Pulis was further boosted by the news that both Fuller and James Beattie had passed late fitness tests to start in attack.
The return of Diao meant Glenn Whelan was the man to miss out, and he was amongst a very strong looking substitutes bench which also included Tuncay, David Kitson and Liam Lawrence.
City looked desperate to make amends for their lacklustre performance against Manchester United by really taking the game to the hosts during the early exchanges. Fuller looked lively and it was he who teed up fellow striker Beattie after just four minutes, but his header was comfortably saved by Tim Howard.
After the hosts had managed to weather an early storm they began to show why they are continuously banging on the door of the top four. Jack Rodwell tested the waters of the Potters backline with a powerful run and strike which flew over, before Tim Cahill agonisingly spurned an opportunity which he would normally take with aplomb.
The Australian international lost his marker inside the penalty box, and when Marouane Fellaini picked him out brilliantly with an inch perfect cross, the majority of the supporters inside the stadium were already beginning to celebrate. However, with the goal at his mercy, just 4-yards out, he thankfully glanced his header straight into the arms of Denmark international Thomas Sorensen.
City stood firm to soak up an immediate barrage of corners, and very nearly took the lead themselves in the 26th minute. Fuller linked up well with Matthew Etherington to force a corner, and from the resulting flag kick the Jamaican rose highest and powered a header goalwards, only for Howard to save well down to his right.
Diao, who was marking his first start since the final game of last season against Arsenal, was keeping both Fellaini and Cahill at bay with an impressive performance in the heart of midfield. However, there was nothing he could do to deny Osman, who went close to breaking the deadlock on the stroke of half time.
The Toffees midfielder curled an effort goalwards, and despite it seemingly looking likely to dip into the top right hand corner, Sorensen produced a world class save to palm the ball over the crossbar to ensure the Potters were on level terms going into the second half.
Neither side made any changes during the interval, and City shocked the hosts, who were chasing a sixth straight victory, by taking the lead in the 50th minute through Huth. The powerful defender rose highest inside a packed out penalty area to glide Etherington's dangerous corner into the bottom corner after out-muscling Belgium star Fellaini.
The lead didn't last long though, as the hosts levelled the tie five minutes later. Osman, who had gone close with a similar effort at the end of the first period, replicated that strike, but with a little more precision, as he curled it beyond Sorensen and in off the crossbar from 20-yards.
The goal breathed fresh life into David Moyes' side and they continuously pushed forward in search of a second, but the presence of Abdoulaye Faye and Ryan Shawcross in the heart of defence was enough to keep the Toffees at bay.
Frustration was clearly setting in as the home supporters sounded disgruntled as their side failed to find an avenue from an extremely stubborn City backline. And they were almost faced with more anguish in the 69th minute as Fuller again went close from range, but his effort drifted just wide of the right hand post.
An uncharacteristic mistake from Leighton Baines allowed Delap to burst down the right hand side moments later, but with Fuller and Etherington crying out for the ball inside the penalty area, he fired across a poor ball which Howard comfortably gathered.
Everton boss Moyes introduced both Jo and Yakubu late on as he took one last roll of the dice to secure all three points, and it almost paid dividends when the pair linked up well to free Cahill inside the penalty area, but once again his effort from close range was poor, and Sorensen saved well down at his feet.
Four additional minutes of time were added on by the fourth official, and Pulis responded by brining on David Kitson in one last hope of nicking a victory. But, despite pushing forward and looking the more likely to sneak the victory, a second goal never came.