Peter Crouch boosted Portsmouth's bid to stay in the Premier League as the England forward scored twice to clinch a crucial 2-1 win against Everton. Paul Hart's team fell behind to an early strike from Leighton Baines at Fratton Park, but Crouch headed an equaliser before half-time and then snatched the winner late in the second period. The victory was only Portsmouth's second in 14 league games and lifted the south-coast club three points clear of the relegation zone.
For Everton, a first defeat in six league games was a major blow to their hopes of snatching a place in the top four. The Toffees remain four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, but could slip further adrift depending on the Gunners' result at Newcastle United later today. Everton were without leading scorer Tim Cahill after the Australia star failed to recover from a calf injury, so Louis Saha started in attack.
Portsmouth kicked off above the relegation zone only on goal difference and their plight looked even more perilous after four minutes. Sylvain Distin bundled over Saha, conceding a free-kick just outside the penalty area. Left-back Baines took the set-piece and struck a superb shot off David James's far post for his first goal for Everton since joining from Wigan Athletic two seasons ago.
But, although Portsmouth are low on points, their effort has never been in doubt since Paul Hart replaced Tony Adams. They responded well and when Everton only half-cleared a corner in the 22nd minute, Portsmouth took full advantage to grab the equaliser. Kranjcar lofted the ball back into the danger area and Glen Johnson headed across the six-yard box, where Crouch arrived to power home a close-range header.
Pompey appealed for a penalty when Younes Kaboul went down under a strong challenge from Joleon Lescott, but referee Peter Walton waved away their protests. Moyes' men had a chance to regain the lead when Jo, on loan from Manchester City, latched onto Sol Campbell's misplaced header on the edge of the penalty area, but the Brazilian drove well wide. There was another Portsmouth penalty claim early in the second half when Baines appeared to handle, but again Walton said no.
Crouch met David Nugent's cross with a looping header that Howard saved on the line. Nugent then had a clear sight of goal, but shot straight at Howard. Portsmouth showed no signs of losing patience, though. They probed away and won it in the 75th minute when Sean Davis floated a cross to the far post and Crouch rose highest to nod home a close-range header.