Talk of white-hankie protests over Nigel Adkins’ sacking on Friday had dominated the build-up but an icy reception never materialised and the new man was instead warmed by a performance that could have brought the full reward.
Rickie Lambert hit the frame of the goal and was later denied by a scrambling Tim Howard but Everton lacked the quality to make the hosts pay in the second half and so a recent revival stretched to six games unbeaten.
There was no mention of Adkins in the match programme but a lusty tribute rung from the stands, before muted applause was afforded his successor as he walked into a flurry of flashbulbs.
Out on the turf, a high-tempo start soon grabbed the home attention and Phil Jagielka’s interception from a pacy Jack Cork cross four minutes in might have gone the wrong side of the post had he not connected as firmly.
Jagielka deflected a Jason Puncheon shot wide of the same upright moments later as Southampton pressed high and broke quickly, urged on by a boss who, despite limited English, had clearly conveyed that tonight was no time to sulk.
Everton had fourth-placed Tottenham in their sights but were unrecognisable in the first half; weak headers from Sylvain Distin and Nikica Jelavic – too often isolated – hardly worth the mention.
Up the other end, Lambert, back in the starting line-up, carried menace with boot and forehead; a 30-yard free-kick rebuffed by the corner of the frame of the goal, a downwards header kept out by Howard and then Leighton Baines.
Jos Hooiveld had an immediate chance on the half-volley, before Lambert rose high but headed wide to preserve stalemate, somehow, by the interval.
David Moyes must have vented at the break and his side took heed, Marouane Fellaini twice working Artur Boruc, before Leon Osman lashed at the Pole from range.
On came Victor Anichebe for the injured Seamus Coleman and swiftly unsettled the home defence, sending over a ball over which Jelavic haplessly tripped, before stinging Boruc’s palms with a left-footed strike.
Puncheon, underutilised as Everton belatedly found rhythm, nipped off the field to answer nature’s call, to widespread amusement.
But though his side finished the stronger, the breakthrough remained elusive, another Lambert header landing off-target before late substitute Kevin Mirallas – back from injury – shot low as time ticked away.