LONDON - The wheels came off Everton's charge for Champions League qualification as two first-half own goals and a toothless attacking performance condemned them to a 2-0 Premier League defeat at Southampton on Saturday.
Roberto Martinez's side have now lost two of their last three games and, with just two matches of their season remaining, are a point behind fourth place Arsenal who have played one fewer.
Having benefited from three own goals and a penalty in their previous five Premier League matches, the tables were turned on Saturday when the Merseysiders fell behind in less than a minute when Antolin Alcaraz headed into his own net.
Misfortune turned to calamity when Seamus Coleman steered another header past his own keeper on 31 and a poor day at the office was compounded when referee Michael Oliver booked Leon Osman for diving in the second half when he was clearly tripped in the area.
It was a set-back, claimed Martinez, but not the final nail in their Champions League hopes. "Everything that could have gone wrong defensively, it did and that made it a very difficult game defensively from that point on," the Spaniard told BT Sport.
"From our point of view, it does not change at all. We have had eight wins in 10 games which is a phenomenal result that allows us to go into the last two games... We are working towards getting the biggest points tally we can get and then at the end of the season we will see where that takes us."
The victory kept Southampton in eighth place, five points adrift of Manchester United in seventh, a potential Europa League qualification place.
United begin life after the sacking of David Moyes against Norwich City later on Saturday with club great Ryan Giggs looking to spark an improvement as their interim coach until the end of the season.