Ademola Lookman and Bernard both struck inside three first-half minutes to propel Everton past Lincoln City and into the FA Cup fourth round.
Lookman skilfully headed in on 12 minutes and fellow wideman Bernard doubled Everton’s advantage when he applied the decisive touch to a flowing move shortly after.
Lincoln pulled one back with the half-hour mark approaching when Michael Bostwick forced home from close range.
But Everton enjoyed the bulk of possession and created the game’s clearest openings as they held their League Two visitors at arm’s length for the remainder of a feisty contest.
Everton were in complete control when Bernard beautifully dinked over Josh Vickers just before the quarter-hour.
The Brazilian’s goal was the result of some fabulous approach play, indicative of the confidence seeping through the hosts following Lookman’s opener.
Gylfi Sigurdsson received a pass from Tom Davies and played forward to Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the penalty area. The striker’s exquisite toe-poked pass released Bernard for a lovely finish up and over the advancing Vickers.
Lookman had already sent one shot whizzing fractionally too high when he met Leighton Baines’ deep cross from the left with a header which directed the ball back over Vickers.
Defender Bostwick desperately tried to clear but would likely have been relieved the ball had crossed the line given he’d otherwise have been red carded for swiping it away with his left hand.
The breakthrough briefly set Lincoln back on their heels, the energy which had seen Sigurdsson and Bernard have shots blocked at close quarters early on temporarily dipping.
Lookman flashed another effort over the bar after dashing in from the left on 20 minutes. Soon after Calvert-Lewin surged through the middle – blue shirts flooding forward to accompany him – but was denied one-on-one by Vickers.
Lincoln surfaced as an attacking force when captain Lee Frecklington strode forward to blast a shot too high to trouble Jordan Pickford.
Everton number one Pickford was utterly helpless to do anything about the goal which brought the League Two side right back into the game on 28 minutes.
Jason Shackell’s header from a free-kick hung up from the left by Michael O’Connor drew a fabulous point-blank stop from Pickford – but the ball fell for Bostwick to toe home.
Kurt Zouma slung his body in the way of a ferocious drive from Frecklington as Lincoln sought to grab the initiative.
Everton started the second half with Cenk Tosun and Andre Gomes on for Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies.
Portuguese Gomes shot into a crowd of bodies on 58 minutes – 60 seconds after Sigurdsson had trapped a dropping ball and let fly with a strike which was arrowing into the bottom corner before Vickers dived to his left to save.
Gomes had another pop, this one scorching over the top from 25 yards
Everton were dominating the ball – midway through the second half the hosts’ possession share read 75 per cent – and forcing Lincoln deeper and deeper.
Baines on the left was consistently providing an extra body in attack. The defender’s cross on 70 minutes following his umpteenth overlap just evaded Tosun at the front post – this moments after a sustained bout of keep ball had ended with Idrissa Gana Gueye thrashing a shot into a defensive body.
Referee John Brooks ignored Everton’s penalty appeals when Baines tumbled in the area. And with 10 minutes to play Bernard drilled too high from distance
The South American's effort was the cue for Lincoln to go on the offensive. Kenny diverted a free-kick behind and from the subsequent corner substitute Richarlison – on for Sigurdsson – cleared Shackell's goalbound header from in front of his line.
Another raid from the tireless Baines created a shooting opportunity for Richarlison who bent his right-footed strike past the far post. Tosun's prod from yet another Baines delivery was gratefully clutched by Vickers.
The announcement of four minutes' stoppage time generated a giant roar from the mammoth travelling support. So too a corner awarded to Lincoln during that period. There was nothing doing for the visitors, though, and Everton closed the deal with a minimum of fuss.
Ademola Lookman was fit to return following three weeks out and the winger picked up where he left off before sustaining a minor ankle problem.
Lookman injected thrust and directness into Everton’s football when he came on at Manchester City on his most recent outing.
He was similarly forceful from the off, here. The 21-year-old had sent his first shot at goal inside 60 seconds, cutting in from the right and sending a left foot strike flashing narrowly over the top.
Confident off both feet, he drove infield from the left 20 minutes later before crashing his right boot through the ball and guiding it narrowly past the far post.
Between times, Lookman had made one of the day’s pivotal contributions. Lincoln City contested the opening 10 minutes of this match on an even footing. They were the team with nothing to lose and Danny Cowley’s fearless bunch – flush with the confidence of a fabulous season which sees them stretching ahead at the League Two summit – approached their task accordingly.
For all Lincoln’s spark, their fizz in the tackle and brave commitment to attack, it was Lookman who broke the deadlock.
He made it all look rather easy, too. Lookman was already on the move, peeling off the back of his marker, as Leighton Baines received the ball out wide.
When the left-back swung over the cross, his winger at the far post was nicely positioned to meet the delivery with a header skilfully directed across Lincoln goalkeeper Josh Vickers.
It was cleverly done by Lookman, who demonstrated his versatility by seamlessly swapping flanks with fellow counterpart Bernard.
Lookman’s intuitive understanding with Baines on the left spoke volumes for the younger player’s football intelligence. Baines is a master of the art of dovetailing with the man in front of him. Indeed the partnership formed down Everton’s left by Baines and Steven Pienaar was the byword for telepathic interplay once upon a time.
The manner in which Lookman moved off the ball opening up space for Baines, allied to his awareness of where his teammate was running off it, belied his relative inexperience.
Likewise, Lookman is prepared to take responsibility for making thins happen. With this game still in the balance he was forever trying to prise open Lincoln’s crowed rearguard. Reviewing a throw-in from Jonjoe Kenny on the right, Lookman wriggled free of the man at his back to progress inside and get his shot away.
Five times this season a Premier League club has fielded a starting XI boasting an average age younger than 25.
Everton have been responsible for three of those instances – in the games against Arsenal and Fulham back in September and, most recently, for the meeting with Leicester City on New Year’s Day.
Here, then, by sending out a starting XI whose average age was 24.8, Marco Silva strengthened a pattern established since he launched his reign six months ago,.
Silva has infused his side with young blood, while retaining the experience necessary to negotiate matches at the sport’s highest level.
Four of the team which started Silva’s first FA Cup tie as Everton manager were 21 or younger. ‘Older’ pair Gylfi Sigurdsson and Idrissa Gana Gueye are yet to celebrate their 30th birthdays.
The only thirtysomething in the side was the immaculate Leighton Baines, making his fifth start this term – and first since the Carabao Cup meeting with Southampton back on October 2.
The benefits of this emphasis on youth are twofold. The fearlessness threaded through young footballers has something to do with the courageous way Everton tried to go about their football this season.
Additionally, this is a team which contains energy all over the field. Silva’s players can zip across the turf, pressing intensely and chasing back towards their own goal as a cohesive unit when on the defensive.
Powerhouse Kurt Zouma is alert in his own penalty area, covering five yards in a flash to snuff out danger when substitute Shay McCartan had drawn back his boot ready to fire in the final minute.
The much slighter Bernard is just as sprightly, hounding opponents, shifting the ball with purpose and moving for the return. Jonjoe Kenny tears forwards at express pace and tackles his recovery runs with similar enthusiasm. Baines, on the other side of the field, matched his colleague 13 years his junior stride for stride.
Gana is a one-man hive of industry, his unflagging legs carrying him wherever he sniffs danger – and on the offensive when the time is right, too.
You have to want to do the work, though, and Everton’s players do. Sigurdsson broke his neck to get back and tackle deep in his own half during the opening 45 minutes.
Large patches of this game demanded the home side simply get their heads down and match their opponents’ graft, confident their greater ability would tell in the final reckoning.
So far as we’re aware, nobody out there has dreamt up an explanation for what exactly constitutes a ‘proper cup tie’.
The term is freely bandied about regardless. If asked what such a thing looks like, you could justly point your inquisitor in the direction of this encounter, even if Everton ultimately won with a little to spare.
Goodison Park was packed to the rafters, no matter Evertonians had filled the ground for a Premier League match four days earlier.
The big screens in the stadium pre-match beamed images of past Everton FA Cup games from Plymouth to Sunderland and countless places in between.
With a playlist which had an FA Cup feel blaring from the sound system, there was a ‘big-match’ mood about the place. Kudos to Lincoln’s 6,000 or so followers who added to the atmosphere, too.
And credit to the team from League Two for making this a right competitive ding-dong. Equally, Everton treated their opponents with the same respect they’d afford from how they’d afford a top-flight visitor.
So it was that 12 minutes before half-time we were treated to the sight of Gylfi Sigurdsson sprinting back into his own half to execute a perfect slide tackle, Jonjoe Kenny relishing completing the job with a blockbuster of a challenge on the follow up.
We’d had three goals and any number of tackles by then, the physicality of the contest matched by its quality at stages; most notably when Sigurdsson, Ademola Lookman and Bernard were weaving their spellbinding patterns in Lincoln territory.
The floodlights beaming on a verdant playing surface lent further lustre to the occasion.
This weekend’s round of fixtures started with 64 teams still vying for the Cup. That number will be sliced in half on fourth round day.
And when all was said and done Everton grabbed hold of one of the balls which will be lobbed in the hat for Monday night’s draw.