LONDON - Emmanuel Adebayor gave Tottenham's Champions League pursuit a timely tonic on Sunday, clinching a barely-deserved 1-0 victory over Everton to dislodge the losers from fifth place in the Premier League.
By overcoming one of this season's top-five teams for the first time despite being largely outplayed, Tottenham moved just three points behind fourth-place Liverpool.
Spurs scored from their only shot on target, with Adebayor controlling a free kick, taken swiftly and smartly by Kyle Walker, and going past Seamus Coleman and dispatching the ball into the net in the 65th minute.
"The ball was great, the control was not bad and I had one choice — to finish with my left foot," Adebayor said.
Having collected just one point from its previous two matches, Tottenham's season now appears to be back on track again as it moved nine points behind leader Chelsea.
For Everton, so impressive in its first season under Roberto Martinez, this was only the Merseyside team's third league loss in four months. And the hard-working, well-drilled Toffees should have come away from White Hart Lane with at least a point.
"We have to hope football won't be that harsh on us again," Martinez said, with 13 games remaining.
Leon Osman had a trio of chances in the opening 10 minutes alone, with the best of them — a volley — turned wide by Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Overrunning the hosts in midfield, Everton was preventing Tottenham making an impact, and leaving them exposed on counterattacks. Tim Howard was barely troubled in the Everton goal, with a free kick from Christian Eriksen that dipped over him onto the roof of the net providing a rare moment of danger.
But when Everton was presented with scoring opportunities, too often they were wasted. Winger Kevin Mirallas rampaged through the Tottenham defence and reached the edge of the area but then struck over rather than picking out one of his better-positioned teammates.
As halftime approached, Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood was becoming increasingly anxious, going from bellowing instructions to cursing misses. There was little change at the start of the second half, with Sherwood kicking bottles and accidentally sending spray across the technical area.
"I'm not pleased about how we are starting games," Sherwood said. "It's something we have to address and find out why."
What was missing from either team, since those early Osman chances, was a player to find a breakthrough amid their midfield sparring.
"I want them to play with risk," Sherwood said. "It was a bit stodgy in there."
Then, out of nowhere, came Adebayor's sixth goal in nine league games since being brought in from the cold by Sherwood after being sidelined by Andre Villas-Boas.
"It's all about how he's being managed," Sherwood said somewhat mischievously.
And it was enough to clinch the three points for Tottenham, which had previously failed to beat top-four rivals Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool this season.