This felt more like a trudge through an unpronounceable Europa League backwater than the latest audition of a side chasing a place in the Champions League.

But at full-time, and having squeezed just enough quality out of a poor performance, Everton were in the top four with just 12 games of the season to go.

By the time you read this, the table may have shifted once more and the Blues could have dropped down a place, but it won't matter to Carlo Ancelotti who said it would be important just to “touch” the position, even if only fleetingly this evening.

What was being inferred was that he wanted his players to develop a taste for the Premier League high-life and for them to give everything for more of it.

The word he used, on a number of occasions, after this was “sacrifice”.

The reward will be worth every ounce of sacrifice they make in the next 12 matches. As a Champions League man through and through, he has already been talking to the players about its magic, at Finch Farm.

Because that is what this win has done. That is the challenge now. It has strengthened Everton's chances of exceeding expectations and qualifying for a seat at Europe's top table.

A 12-game mini season awaits Everton. Six matches at home and six away. This is now what the season boils down to.

We are, as Ancelotti's influence on this game showed, at the business end of the season.

And it is the part of the campaign where he comes to the fore more than at any other point.

Here, he turned one point into three with his substitutions and tinkering.

Allan came on to give Everton greater control of the midfield and Gylfi Sigurdsson was introduced to help the Blues create more chances.

And as he did, Ancelotti instructed Lucas Digne to hand corner taking duties over to the club's record signing in order for Everton to deliver an in-swinging cross. It was headed back to Sigurdsson but from his return, Richarlison won the game and sent his team fourth.

After that, Everton did what they have come to perfect – protecting a lead. Sure they survived a VAR call but they kept West Brom out, took the three points and leapt into the top four.

It was anything but pretty. But it was effective.

The lacklustre display will leave many Blues feeling uneasy, but maybe this is what business-end football is all about?

Ancelotti would know, right? He is a business-end manager.

Maybe we're wrong to be asking for Everton to start playing with more of a flourish, putting goals on the board to to potentially help tip that balance at the end of the season when everything is decided?

Maybe Ancelotti would say that it's about doing whatever it takes to win. Winning is all the counts at this stage. Losing stylishly is not how you go about things. As he said, it's all about sacrifice.

The last time Everton were seriously in contention for the top four was under Roberto Martinez in 2014.

A 1-0 win over Sunderland in mid-April sent the Blues fourth with just five games left.

But then came that Crystal Palace game. An over-thinking of tactics and a miscalculation of what was needed to get over the line unravelled.

Martinez had never been in that position before and Everton would never really recover from that 3-2 defeat.

History says you have to bet that Ancelotti would not make the same mistake if given five games to hold onto fourth.

The finish line is further away, of course, he has 12 matches to go and this season is sure to take unexpected turns between now and May, but who better to navigate the Blues through it than Ancelotti?

Did he put too much faith in Bernard and Alex Iwobi to help unpick West Brom? Their performances said he did. He made a mistake but he corrected it and found a way to turn one point into three. Staying seventh quickly became moving into fourth.

Ancelotti's cause is helped by the return to scoring form of Richarlison, too.

That's four league goals in as many games now. He is a threat again. He fed largely on scraps for most of this but the one, good, delivery that was put into West Brom's box, he dispatched.

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Richarlison is a player destined – desperate too – to play in the Champions League and it is perhaps little coincidence that his last three goals have led to three big wins.

But it's also three big wins and three clean sheets too.

Everton's defence has been the bedrock of this Champions League challenge and with Michael Keane, Ben Godfrey, Mason Holgate and Lucas Digne looking as resilient as they do right now, and with Richarlison back among the goals, then Ancelotti has every reason to feel confident.

Allan is back. Sigurdsson is making the kind of difference he has never, consistently made. James Rodriguez' absence is a blow, naturally, but Everton are finding a way without him.

Yerry Mina is due back soon too.

As we enter the business end of the season, the Blues have most of their important players fit, or due to return soon.

They also have their biggest asset licking his lips at the “fight” which lies ahead: Ancelotti.

This is why Everton hired him.