After Ross Barkley cancelled out Miguel Layun’s opener, Odion Ighalo thought he had won it for Watford before Kone popped up to earn a point for Everton at the death.
With six debutants in the Watford starting line-up, including three of the back four, there was an air of mystery about the Hornets heading into this game and they proved they belonged early on in an excellent first-half display.
Everton had the better of the battle for possession in the early going but struggled to break through a very well-organised Watford defence and found themselves behind in the 14th minute.
The Everton back four failed to deal with a cross flighted in from the left flank, allowing the ball to fall to Mexican midfielder Layun and he rifled into the bottom right-hand corner from 10 yards to stun the Goodison Park crowd.
The home side tried to answer but became increasingly frustrated as the half wore on and Gareth Barry’s header from a corner, which Huerelho Gomes was forced to tip over, was as close they came to scoring.
At the other end, Watford forward Troy Deeney was lucky to escape with only a yellow minutes before the break when he caught Brendan Galloway with a wild two-footed lunge after the young Everton defender cleared the ball.
Layun almost doubled Watford’s lead on the stroke of half-time when he fired inches wide of the far post from the edge of the box with Tim Howard beaten.
Roberto Martinez cannot have been impressed with his team’s first-half display and must have let his team know because they emerged for the second with far greater purpose.
They were almost level soon after the interval when the ball worked its way to Barkley from a corner and he sent in a brilliant cross to the far post which Romelu Lukaku headed just wide.
The home side threatened again soon after when Barkley found James McCarthy in the box with a clever reverse pass. The Irishman squared from the by-line but Watford just managed to scramble clear.
Everton continued to dominate as the half wore on and fashioned another good chance on 68 minutes when Tom Cleverley found Kone unmarked with a brilliant cross from deep on the right flank but the substitute headed over.
The Toffees’ pressure paid off on 76 minutes, however, as Kone laid the ball off to Barkley on the edge of the box and the young England midfielder smashed the ball into the top corner with the aid of a slight deflection.
Everton might have been expected to push for the winner from there but Watford substitute Odion Ighalo had other ideas and had the visitors back in front on 83 minutes.
Ighalo wrong-footed John Stones on the edge of the box with a skilful dip of his shoulder before evading another challenge from Phil Jagielka and firing low past Tim Howard.
There was more drama to come and Kone earned a point for Everton when he combined well with Lukaku in the box before firing low into the bottom corner.
Soccer Saturday reaction – Charlie Nicholas
The way Watford played, the way they controlled the game in terms of pace and balance… a lot of these players are names we’ve heard but don’t really know much about. To fit them into a system quite quickly will be a surprise. The shape was good. They were a physical, powerful, athletic side. Good pace on the flanks. Today it was about shape, organisation, and simple passes. To be in front twice and come back and give away a draw to a fairly timid Everton team today will disappoint Quique Flores in particular but there was certainly a lot of positives.
It was a stunning strike from Barkley to get them level but this Everton crowd are not happy with this team. They’re too slow, too cumbersome. When they hit it long they do not get the midfield support quick enough and didn’t see Barkley really until the goal. Lukaku disappointed me again.
Everton: Howard (6), Galloway (5), Jagielka (6), Stones (6), Coleman (7), Barry (6), McCarthy (6), Cleverley (6), Barkley (7), Mirallas (7), Lukaku (5)
Subs: Kone (8), Oviedo (6), Naismith (N/A)
Watford: Gomes (6); Nyom (6), Cathcart (6), Prödl (6), Holebas (7); Capoue (6), Behrami (6); Anya (7), Jurado (6), Layun (7); Deeney (7)
Subs: Paredes (6), Ighalo (8), Watson (6)
Man of the Match: Arouna Kone